Friday, April 9, 2010

Greener Grass

We have grass issues. Our grass has been the bane of my husband's existence since we moved into our brand new home three summers ago. The problem started with the builders of our development who strip away all the good top soil in the process of building our home and sell it to make a few extra bucks (or apparently, a lot of extra bucks). That leaves us with nutrient-lacking, rocky, clay-like dirt. In the picture below you can see just how nutrient-lacking our dirt is: the lush green parts of the grass are spots where our dog has peed- in other words, dog urine (which burns good grass) actually adds nutrients to our soil. It's just plain sick.

So, I am still amazed when I walk through our development and see lush, green lawns. In some cases the green almost glows: chemical lawns. On one hand, I can understand the need for some chemical fertilizer (you saw the picture of our lawn), we even used some when we first moved in. But, as we face this spring and begin planning our yard work, we are torn about what to do about our grass. Do we use chemical fertilizer, knowing that it pollutes water and it is probably not safe for our kids and dog to be frolicking in (when we have enough to frolic in)? Unfortunately, the alternate solutions we have looked into are very expensive.

But I am also beginning to realize that our grass problems have root issues as well: heart-root issues. When we decided to move into a suburban development three years ago, we also decided that we didn't want to succumb to the often complacent, cookie-cutter mentality. It is hard. As I have stated before, I have comparison issues and they don't stop with parenting. I walk through our neighbor and covet landscaping, decks, patios, swing sets, and swimming pools. I work diligently to keep the front of the house clear of debris and excessive toys. We try to keep our grass clipped and our flower beds weeded. And so, when I walk up to our house and see our gross grass I worry about having the ugliest grass in our neighborhood (and we do).

I have been convicted about this lately after reading the book Death by Suburb: How to Keep the Suburbs From Killing Your Soul by David Goetz. The premise of the book is that you don't need to flee the suburbs to have a deep, rich and intentional life; you just need to practice certain disciplines so that you don't get sucked into keeping up with and looking like the Jones'. He says, "I think my suburb, as safe and religiously coated as it is, keeps me from Jesus. Or, at least, my suburb (and the religion of the suburbs) obscures the real Jesus. The living patterns of the good life affect me more than I know. Yet the same eviornmental factors that numb me to the things of God also hold out great promise. I don't need to escape the suburbs. I need to find Jesus here" (pg. 5).

So, how does my grass problem show me how to find Jesus? It shows me that my reputation is wrapped up in what my neighbors think of my grass (and ultimately me). But, the gospel frees me from that, doesn't it? When my reputation is in Jesus that frees me and our family to make decisions that might seem crazy to the people around us. So, when we decide not to use chemical fertilizer because we want to be good stewards of God's creation, or place a big, black ugly compost bin and the end of our yard or home school our kids, we are saying that the sum of our existence is deeper than the color of our grass or where our kids go to school.

Goetz puts it this way, "The outward physical world of SUV's and minivans, drearily earth-toned subdivisions, golden retrievers and chocolate labs, and endless Saturday morning games is only one dimension. There's another dimension or two. This much thicker world is a world in which I am alive to God and alive to others, a world in which what I don't yet own defines me. It's a higher existence, a plane where I am not the sum total of my house size, SUV, vacations, kid's report cards- and that which I still need to acquire" (pg. 13).

But, it is true what they say, "The grass is always greener". What I need to continue to remind myself is that I already have everything I need. I am defined not by what I own but what I have received in Christ and what I will someday have in full. And that, I pray, will guide how I live on Sh---- Road, will guide how I see the need of those around me and how I will live intentionally in the midst of it.

{I have learned so much from this book, especially about how to live these convictions out. Hopefully, I will find the time to write about it more. Or you could just pick the book up yourself!}


signonthewindow said...

Great post, Jane! Really excellent thoughts. Once again, impressed and humbled by your self-knowledge.

On a practical note, have you thought of a clover yard? Or ground-cover plants? Those require a lot less maintenance and water. Grass yards are one of those things we got from the English. And in England it always rains so there's no need to do the backbreaking, bank-breaking, enviro-breaking work it takes to make a yard look "perfect."

Heck, maybe you should start a community garden on your property. THAT would be some resistance!

Daisy said...

I know this is totally not the point of your post, there some way to enrich your soil non-chemically? Gardens Alive may have a product you can use. Do you mulch your clippings when mowing, or bag?
I too, struggle with this, especially when I see the beautiful, chemical-laden lawns of our neighbors as our dandelions blow across our yard.