Finding Beauty in the Dirt

Me and the boys were visiting my parents recently.  They have about 3 acres of land with forest and meadering river throughout – it’s a beautiful haven in a country setting and we’ll all enjoy it for as long as they are able to have it!

There is always work to be done to maintain this haven.  This visit there was a heap of dirt that needed to be moved and levelled out to mark the beginnings of a roundabout driveway my dad is working on.

I don’t know why, but I was so excited about digging in this dirt.  Most likely it’s the same reason my dad leaves the lawn for me to mow if he knows I’m coming for a visit, or the same reason he gave me that questioning glance when I clambered up on the roof to shovel off snow with him during a particularly hard winter.  I just love it – the physical exertion in caring for the land, taking care of the simple basics of life, working with nature so we can live in community together, caring for God’s creation – the first job He ever gave to us.  It’s something to instinctual in me, so pure and raw, I love the feel of dirt (but not worms), the smell of grass, the heaviness of snow in a shovel – to me there’s real beauty in all that.  There’s farmer blood in me, I just now it.  My father worked a farm in England for about 20 years, my grandparents worked the land and the animals for longer still.  My oldest son would talk about farming once in a while.  I think it just runs in the family.

So I invite my boys to grab a shovel from the big old shed and follow me out front.  We look at the pile of dirt for a minute, make our plan of attack, and literally “dig in”.  We work as a team, one son chipping away at the top of the pile which has hardened slightly from the weather, another son moving the loosened dirt to its new location, me just digging and throwing, digging and throwing.  Loving just about every minute of it, knowing I’ll be sore tomorrow, and loving that thought too.

The dirt we dig starts to shape the roundabout my dad envisions, and we stand to look at our work every few minutes.  We take pride in our accomplishment, we enjoy the comraderie of our small team of diggers, and we laugh and help each other and it’s all really, really good.  For some reason, I am alive in all this, so alive, so born for this, and I wonder what that means for the rest of my life, this knowledge that I am a digger, builder, nature-lover to the core.

We are almost done our share of the task at hand.  The rest we’ll leave for Grandad.  We imagine the surprise he’ll get when he comes home and sees our work.  We hope we’ve done a good job and we look forward to his reaction to our efforts.  Always wanting to make daddy, grandad happy – I guess that never stops, does it?  Same with the heavenly father – do you ever sense His smile on you?  There is nothing else like that in the whole world.

As we finish up, Josiah brings me his dirty shovel and as he walks by he says, “I can see why you walked down the aisle to Dad that day.  When we were digging, you walked by and I thought ‘Wow!’  You looked really good.”  He fills my heart up for years with a few words, and I’ll put that moment immediately into my treasure box of motherhood, right where it belongs.  I smile, I say thank you, I just revel in my son calling me beautiful in the middle of a dirt heap.

I think about it for a minute – why was I Wow in that moment?  Probably because I felt so alive.  It must be how God sees us – when we are using our gifts (even gifts of digging!) and using them to bless others, and using them in community to serve together – that must be the most beautiful sight to God.  It’s why we’re alive.  He made us in His image.  When that image reflects Him even for just a split second – it is pure beauty.  And I think Josiah must have caught me in one of those seconds, reflecting the image of God.  That makes me feel so amazing.

Beautiful as I dig up dirt, who would have thought?

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