Motivating Myself in the Garden

How prayer and a push mower helped me find inner peace.

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The push mower that brought her inner peace.

Never mind the July sun beating down mercilessly. It was time to tackle our half-acre of grass, which had seemingly grown four inches overnight. I tugged the starter cord on my lawn mower. The engine didn’t fire up. Good thing there’s a spare mower in the shed. I hauled out the backup mower and pulled the cord. Nothing. I yanked it again. It sat there, irritatingly dormant.

I stomped into the house. My husband, Rocky, looked up from the old lamp he was tinkering with. He’s a regular Mr. Fix-It. “I can’t get either lawn mower to work,” I announced. “And I need to finish this grass today.”

“Take it easy,” he said. “I’ll see what I can do.” He brought the mowers into the garage. I threw myself down in front of the TV.

Truth is I wasn’t just frustrated with the broken mowers. Lately I felt like I was on a treadmill that kept speeding up every time I thought I’d hit my stride. I was thankful my literary business was successful, but proofreading and editing jobs jammed my inbox, each one with an imminent deadline. Even at church I felt pressured. Could I select the music, print up newsletters, help the bylaws committee? I loved my church family. How could I let them down? I found myself saying the same prayer each night. Lord, I’m glad to have such a full life, but I’m overwhelmed…help!

I thought that taking a break to get outside and mow the grass—something I’ve always liked doing—would be a nice respite. Now, with two broken lawn mowers, I was more stressed than ever.

A couple hours later Rocky emerged from our garage. “I can’t get these mowers to start,” he said. He called a few engine repair shops, but they were booked for weeks.

The next day, Rocky and I stopped at a home-improvement store. Maybe they’d have a reliable mower that wouldn’t break the bank. We checked out the prices. Most were hundreds of dollars. Way beyond our budget.

Then, high up on the shelf, I spied a reel mower—the old-fashioned manual kind I’d used growing up in Iowa.

The salesman brought it down. I rolled it along the floor. It pushed like a dream! Best of all, it was only $95.

Back home, I took the reel mower for a spin. The whirr-snick of the blades transported me to those long-ago Iowa summer evenings, when fireflies winked across the yard and neighbors lazed on porches. I took a deep breath. Ahhh! Nothing like the smell of fresh-cut grass. With no gas fumes, either. Crickets droned softly, warming up for their evening concert. I would’ve never heard their beautiful music over the engine of a power mower. “Thank you, Lord,” I whispered.

Each day after that, I scheduled a break to work on the yard. The more I pushed the reel mower, the more it pushed me to slow down and savor the moment. Nurturing the vegetable garden renewed my energy so I could spend hours at my computer without feeling tired. Pruning weeds and clearing deadfall gave me insight on how to edit a story. Soon, a lull in proofreading allowed me to catch up on editing, and someone else volunteered to take on the church bylaws revisions. There was time for everything, if I just didn’t hurry.

A month later, on a whim, I tried those power mowers again. They both started on the first try. Not that I have much use for them anymore. I prefer my reel mower—a real answer to prayer that nurtures my yard, and my soul.

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