Thursday, May 27, 2010

lessons from the lawn mower

For the last four years, I've been working at Lawn Brothers mowing grass and doing landscaping. I enjoy working outside, so it's been really good for me. With all the time spent riding on a mower, I've learned alot of things about myself because I have so much time to think. This summer, I have learned a lesson that I thought I would share.

I have never really been obsessive-compulsive about much, but over the last few years I have found out that there is one thing that causes me to have OCD: straight lines while mowing yards. I don't know where it came from, but one day, it just started bugging me when a line looked a little bit crooked, and I would do anything I could to fix it. I guess it's not a big deal, but it does make me mow a little slower some days when I'm trying to get things just right. However, there is one yard that has given me fits for the last three years. No matter what I tried, I couldn't seem to get the lines straight.

Imagine a large grove of trees. On one end is an open space where you start mowing. Here, it's easy to make straight lines. That lasts for about twenty or thirty yards, and then you hit this grove of trees. There are probably about twenty or so rows of trees that someone planted in "straight" lines. Actually, they aren't straight, but kind of crooked and at different angles. Once you get through about 2/3 of the trees, you come to another open spot that lasts about 15 yards before once again going into the rows of trees.

Like I said, making straight lines is easy at first, because you're in the open. But once you hit the trees, it gets much harder. There are so many trees to circle around it makes you feel like your on the tea cups ride at Disney World. As a matter of fact, when my friend Rob did it for the first time, after he finished he said he almost got sick from going around all these trees. My lines start out straight, and I would then try to make them look straight while in the trees. The test of how well you do comes when you hit that second open area. Every time I would get to it, I would think I'd done a fine job making straight lines, but my lines would always be crooked like a banana when I got there. For the longest time, I couldn't figure out why.

This year, I tried a new approach. I would mow the trees like I mowed and open field. Two rules to making straight lines: 1) keep your front wheel the same distance from the line you just cut. Consistency is the key here. Keep it the same every time and your lines will be straight. 2) Keep your speed just right. To fast and you'll miss stuff, but if too slow, the bumps will throw you off a little bit.

So, I followed those two rules, and lo and behold, when I got to the open area my lines were straight as an arrow. What was the real difference this time? I finally quit focusing on the trees. I had been so busy trying to make my lines straight in comparison to the trees (which aren't in straight lines to begin with) that I forgot the two simple rules to making perfect lines.

This got me thinking about all of the trials that Jenny and I have been facing. All of these trees have been getting in the way (cancer, chemo treatments, school, our dog dying), and I had been wondering if we had been handling everything the right way. Some days we feel so lost among the trees as the branches reach out to slap our faces. It's been hard to not focus on the trees. But somewhere in all of the mess, after years and years of trying to get it right, I've finally learned two simple things to remember when trying to keep a straight line amongst the trees. 1) God loves me, and I love God. No matter how many times I get slapped I must always remember that. 2) God wants what is best for me. I may not get why something is happening, or when it will end, I must remember that God is in control and wants only the best for me, even if it hurts a little bit.

As I stated earlier, I've wondered how we've handled all of this opposition lately. Have we been faithful? Have we focused enough on God? Can we do this? How do we stay positive when it just gets so overwhelming? We are far from then end of the trees, but we have just come to an open expanse in our battle against cancer. Perhaps its a short breather, or maybe just a chance to look at our lines and see if they're straight. Either way, we praise God for the news that we got last week. Jenny's latest PET scan shows no active cancer cells. This means we only have three more visits to the chemo doctor before we start a month of radiation. For those of you with us from the beginning, you know we set a goal to be cancer free by Jenny's birthday on August 15th. We're right on track. Looks like that line is pretty straight to me.

Don't focus on the trees. You can't go straight that way. There are only two things to remember....1) God loves you, and I pray, that you love Him. 2) God wants what's best for you, no matter what things look like, He ALWAYS wants what's best for His children.


  1. Wow, John! What a visual - so simple, yet so profound! Of course, I could not be happier or more grateful for your "open space" right now, the answer to many, many prayers. But I'm also so proud of your lines "through the trees." You guys have focused your eyes on the goal you've had from the beginning: to glorify God through this trial. And that's exactly what you've done. Thank you for having OCD - I know I, for one, have been forever changed. Love, mom

  2. Thanks, John! This post came just at the right time to be an encouragement to me in the current trial I am facing. Sooooooo thankful to hear the good news about Jenny's cells! Praise God for He is so Good!!!! Brooke Komar

  3. Teresa and all the FruitsMay 28, 2010 at 10:14 PM

    God is good and I am grateful for His watchcare, love and mercy in your lives, and for the blessing to me to know the two of you. You both make me want to be better, to love more and to live passionately. Thank you for sharing your lives so transparently and raising the bar for all of us as we strive to walk by faith. We love both of you and lift you up daily to the One Who saved us all...

  4. Now when tree branches slap my face, I'm not lookin' at the trees easy to forget and so important not to. Thanks John.

  5. Proverbs 3:5-6
    Trust in the LORD with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
    in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

    Straight paths...a friend posted this verse on their facebook this morning and it made me think of your post.