"lawn day" is a day that i look forward to each week. something about making our yard look neat and well cared for is deeply satisfying to me. the most onerous part of the job is cleaning around our magnolia tree. magnolia trees thrive in our area of the country, though they are not natives. i read somewhere long ago that they were brought here from china. they are an ancient tree and quite different from the pines, oaks, and gums that are the most numerous trees here. they remain green throughout the year, they have large, beautiful, fragrant blossoms in the spring, their leaves are large and leathery, and they shed leaves throughout the year. each week i must clean up the leaves and other debris produced by our magnolia. one of my wife's aunts became so tired of cleaning up around her magnolia that she had it cut down.
as i cleaned up around ours this past week, i thought about the aunt's reaction to her magnolia. i looked at our tree and thought, "this tree is a wonderful gift. it provides cooling shade to a large part of our home and yard. it's flowers are a joy. it is an example of an amazing variety of tree, different from every other tree type in our neighborhood. why should i consider it such a task to clean up the mess it makes? my work is a gift back to the tree and our yard. it is a joyful offering that i make out of gratitude for the enjoyment our tree brings." i continued with this line of thinking, realizing that the little work that we must do in order to sustain joy is worth the price, and, in fact, the work is part of the joy that life gives.
later, as i rode in the park, i was laboring to get up the steepest part of the ride, and the message of the magnolia tree came back to me. in order to have the feeing of exuberance that comes when i sail down the hill, i must ride up the hill. the climb is part of the joy of rushing headlong down the hill; they are two sides of the same coin. all of life is like that. pain is part of pleasure, suffering is part of enjoyment. every act has its corresponding opposite, and they are part of the same experience. all are gifts that we are given to make us whole.
today i pray that each of us experiences the full measure of the gifts of God, giving thanks for the climb that precedes the exuberant descent, for the labor that produces satisfaction in a job well done. may we all embrace every aspect of life, living it as a joyful offering to God.