Years ago, as often happened on Sunday nights, I did not sleep well and woke up feeling unrested. I planned to work in the yard on my day off but it looked unpleasant outside. Staying indoors seemed the better choice.

Judi was getting ready for work. I asked, “Is that rain storm still coming today?” She said rain was forecast for the afternoon. “Well,” I said, “I better get to work.” I was hoping she’d say “Poor baby, don’t go out in that nasty weather. You should curl up under a cozy blanket and read a good book…while I go off to work.” She didn’t say that.

So I put on old jeans and a sweatshirt and went downstairs to put on my work shoes. Then I opened the garage door.

When I work in the garden, opening the garage door is an initiating act, almost like a curtain raising. In unpleasant weather, it is also the moment of declaration. “Do I really want to do this today?” That morning I hesitated. There was rain in the wind but there was much work to do, so I stepped outside and closed the door behind me. I was now committed.

At the garden shed, I put on my hat, gloves, and rain slicker. Then I stood in the middle of the lawn and surveyed the garden. I’d bought a few plants at a 70 percent off sale, and now I needed to find a place for them. Better and richer gardeners make a plan first and then buy plants to fit it. I’ve never done that.

I chose a site for the new plants, prepared the ground, and planted them.

Then I stood in the misty wind again. What to do next? A blank space by the shed needed to be filled in. I decided a nearby small camellia shrub would fit the space nicely. The camellia had to be replanted anyway because I had planted it too deep. So, I dug it up, moved it into its new spot. I stood back and surveyed my work—better, much better.

Better and richer gardeners make a plan first and then buy plants to fit it. I've never done that.

By then it was time for a coffee break. I changed out my muddy clothes and went to a local coffee shop. As I drove back home, it began to rain with more intensity, not a downpour but enough to use the windshield wipers.

I got home, changed back into my muddy clothes, and stood in the middle of the yard again and saw more cleanup work to be done.

I raked up leaves and pine needles. I cut back plants past their seasons. I dug up and recycled plants that were doing poorly. I filled the yard waste bin.

I considered cutting off a low limb on one of our large pine trees. I leaned a ladder against the trunk and with a saw in hand I climbed the ladder. About halfway up I realized the limb was much higher and bigger than I’d thought and my saw looked much smaller. I paused to give good sense time to prevail. I climbed down the ladder, smiled at myself, and went on to other things.

I finished my day by the front door as Judi came home. She looked at me, with a half-smile as if to say, “You’ve been playing in the mud again.”

I washed off my tools and rain gear. I brushed the mud off my shoes and pants. I was tired, but it was a deeply satisfying tired.

Later, as I was washing up, I looked in the mirror and saw mud all over my face. It made me smile. I had been playing in the mud.

In theology, there is something called “common grace.” It describes the blessings that come from God in the ordinary things of life. My day in the mud had been an experience of God’s common grace.

Common grace is a good thing to look for as we begin a new year.

I slept well that night.

About the Author

  • Mike Guerrero

    Mike Guerrero is a retired Covenant pastor. He served as lead pastor of Shoreline (Washington) Covenant Church for 40 years.

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