on this side of the fence

The grass at our house isn’t very pretty.  Our front yard consists mostly of crabgrass and clover punctuated by various weeds that change with the seasons - tall, spiky windmills and straight, spindly spires and lots and lots of dandelions (and puffs!).  We are slowly replacing it all with small garden beds and I have a dream and a 5 year plan to turn the whole thing into a food-producing Eden.  But for now, it’s weedy.
Out back our grass is patchy.  Multiple trees stretch their branches over our fences and across our yard and I truly appreciate the shade they create for us throughout the heat of summer.  But so much shade results in bald spots and large swaths of moss and weak little clumps of grass stuck here and there amidst more clover, and the trees drop thousands of little twigs and branches on the ground.
To be honest, I don’t often think about our grass until I find myself in the yard of a friend who has a really nice lawn.  There, I can kick off my flip flops and walk barefoot in the softness, letting the tips of the grass tickle my toes.  I can plop right down with my girls and not worry about getting poked by sticks or bruised by rocks.  I can lie back on that pretty, pretty grass and close my eyes.  I think, This is nice.

* * *

Last summer my kids created the most amazing miniature village in our backyard.  They cleared a large piece of ground under a hackberry tree.  They hunted for sticks that were just the right diameter, broke them and poked them into the ground to make walls, then covered their tiny structures with beautiful roofs of moss.  They found jagged rocks and small pebbles, a piece of a broken terra cotta pot and dried berries and feathers.  They were, they declared, creating a home for the bugs, and they christened it Bugville. (The fact that the entire outside world already is a home for the bugs seemed lost on them.)  They worked painstakingly for days, tracking dirt in and out of the house as they fetched cups of water for the ground and for themselves to aid in their labor.  Even months after summer’s heat waned they continued to check on it, clearing away dead leaves and searching for signs of habitation.  For them, that weedy, patchy, twiggy backyard was just what they needed.

* * *

It is so dang hard to quit the comparison game.  My mind knows better but my heart seems prone to wandering from my own well-known mess into the blissful ignorance of someone else’s and then wondering about it.  The struggle can be superficial - material possessions and appearances and beauty.  But it also goes deeper, to those essential questions of worth and purpose. Someone’s doing it differently and doing it well and so what does that mean about me?  Someone else is (I assume) a better wife or mother or human being than I am, someone else speaks so eloquently while I have nothing to say, someone else does more than me or better than me or both.  When I do this, I always lose.
I compare and I lose my confidence in myself and in my choices.  
I compare and I lose my sense of who I am.  
I compare and I lose my peace.
I compare and my joy slips away.  
It’s only when I keep my eyes open to the gifts I have in front of me - rather than wandering and wondering, constantly looking, looking all around to see what everyone else is doing or saying or (here’s the real kicker) posting - that my joy increases exponentially as my heart remembers to say, “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”  

It’s sometimes said that the grass actually isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.  I think that’s true, although it would be fair to say, too, that it’s most likely a whole lot softer and maybe even prettier over there.  But here, inside the beautiful confines of our own fence, we have sticks and rocks and berries.  We have moss and clover flowers and small hands bringing to life the imagined fancies of fascinating little minds.  Over here, we have Bugville.

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