Looking across the front yard of our new country home, it became clear—we’d underestimated what managing a sprawling piece of Tennessee property might require. We loved the idea of rolling hills and a view, but when spring swept in with near-daily rain, moving a little further out came with a list of outside chores that never seemed to end.
On my first Saturday home after two weekends of travel, I woke early. I had forty-eight hours to reconnect with Gabe and our kids, and to help out with what felt most urgent around the house, and then I had to head back out to speak again. I brewed a pot of coffee and, with steaming mug in hand, ventured to the rockers on the front porch. Once seated, I couldn’t avoid noticing the weeds taking over the front and sides of our house
I couldn’t distinguish the flowering perennials from the flowering weeds, though many of the plants we loved and wanted to keep were hidden below the chaos. I vaguely remembered some sort of strategic design by the original owner, but her intentions had become invisible, hidden, of no benefit to anyone now. I decided then and there that I was going to clear out those weeds over my two days at home.
The magnitude of the weeding project both inspired and terrified me. Could I clear the weeds in two days while I was home?
By nine o’clock, the air was fully saturated, so humid you could almost swim in it. I didn’t give up, though. I needed something physical after all the travel, all the sitting on planes, in cars, in conferences. I wanted to get my hands dirty and see tangible results.
I pulled and pulled, my lower back sore and knees aching from the constant crouching and shuffling. Still, I kept going, staying focused on the task. I didn’t look up, didn’t check the messages on my phone or run in for a break and another cup of coffee. I just kept pulling the weeds, sometimes one by one, sometimes grabbing a mass of stems and pulling them up by the roots. The root was always the goal, however deep it might be. Removing the root was the only way to prevent the weed’s return.
As I neared the end of all that pulling, something happened. I started to see the shape of the previous owner’s strategy. The original curves of the flowerbeds emerged, boxwoods began to stand tall in pretty rows and sporadic patches of mulch found the light of day for the first time in weeks.
Little by little, order returned, and it was beautiful. Never had outdoor work felt so fulfilling. I was six hours in, and there was no stopping now. I pushed through another two hours. Then three. I felt passionate about what was being uncovered, about beauty being restored, inspired by what I’d create again in these flower beds once we made room for new life to emerge.
I barely noticed the setting sun until Gabe pointed it out. We had evening plans; he’d come out to tell me it was time to get ready. I hated to leave, but I knew I needed a break.
I woke on Sunday at six. I could hardly move, but I’d set my sights on finishing. I popped some ibuprofen to fend off the pain, put on my new turquoise gloves, applied sunscreen to my cheeks and neck, threw on my black baseball hat and headed out the door.
In the early morning quiet, as I worked and listened to the chorus of my early bird friends, I thought of my dad and how he always puttered around the yard with projects. He always preferred to be outside tending the garden, sitting in the grass pulling weeds, donning his signature triangle hat made out of newspaper to offer extra shade. From time to time he’d pull something from the dirt and taste it. He’d sample anything that grew on anything, including every part of an apple except the stem. I suppose I got my love for gardening, for nature, for anything outdoors, from him.
As I kept working that garden, I remembered telling my friend a couple of weeks prior that I was in the middle of a foundation-shifting season, and the metaphor of clearing the dirt foundation bordering our home was not lost on me. Never had I been so excited to tackle a project, much less with such a sense of urgency, but here I was, spending the only two days I had at home that week in the blazing sun as if my life depended on it.
My excitement about working in the yard that weekend was a tangible expression of how I used to feel about my work. In the beginning, I was passionate to write and teach with energy to spare, coming up with new ideas and concepts each day and even into the night. God would press thoughts onto my heart, and I’d jot them down as quickly as they came. But over the years, that passion began to wane. I wanted that endless energy back, where I’d pour over volumes of research and study for long hours, my nose buried in books. I wanted to recover the same kind of passion and energy for writing and teaching as I found that weekend clearing weeds.
I wanted to recover the passion that surrounded my vocation.
Pulling Passion-Choking Weeds
Each of us is made for something specific, given a particular passion by God so we can partner with him in creating and constructing the Kingdom. When we discover that passion, when we live into it, we become more alive. Nothing has been more emboldening, more fulfilling, more true for me than living out my passion: helping people live out their calling from a place of freedom.
Yet in recent years, I had allowed other things to crowd out my one specific thing, the greatest thing. I said yes to speaking at conferences, even if the topic wasn’t a direct fit. I’d spread myself too thin with activities at home as well, and felt like I was always moving from one thing to the next. Then there was social media. How many times had I found myself in the middle of a hot mess on Twitter or a dumpster fire discussion on a Facebook thread? Many distractions overtook the simplicity of the call. Over time I began to lose sight of my early passion and zeal, and I found myself on the edge of burnout.
The day I told my mother-in-law I was losing my passion—not a phrase I could ever imagine saying—I knew I needed to do something about it. So just as I’d pulled weeds in the garden, I pulled the distractions away, one by one, for fear they’d forever suffocate my passion. The social media distractions, additional obligations, pressures and stressors. All those things had crept in without me realizing it, and they’d overtaken the life I’d intended to grow in the first place. They caused low-grade anxiety, too, though I hadn’t realized it until I got rid of them. As I cleared space, as I gained margin, my passion was reignited. I began to dive into challenging books. I jotted down new ideas during afternoon walks. I found myself writing and teaching with renewed excitement when I made room again for what I was created to do, and began to thrive once more.
Clear the Weeds Choking Your Passion
What’s choking your passion, your work, the place where your creative energy was meant to go? What things do you need to pull from your life so you have the energy to partner with God in his creative purpose for you? Identify those things and get rid of them: activities that don’t bring life, distracting obligations, or social media. Pull the weeds. Get them at the root so they don’t grow back. Then, with renewed passion, use your passion to create something beautiful.
Excerpted from Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose by Rebekah Lyons with permission from Zondervan.
Rebekah Lyons is a national speaker and bestselling author of Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose, You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are, and Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning. An old soul with a contemporary, honest voice, Rebekah reveals her own battles to overcome anxiety and depression—and invites others to discover and boldly pursue their God-given purpose. Alongside her husband, Gabe, Rebekah finds joy in raising four children, two of whom have Down syndrome. She wears her heart on her sleeve, a benefit to friends and readers alike. Her work has been featured on TODAY, Good Morning America, CNN, PARADE, Huffington Post, The Tennessean, Publisher’s Weekly, and more. Her latest, Rhythms for Life Planner and Journal: 90 Days to Peace and Purpose will be available nationwide October 27, 2020. Her latest book, Rhythms for Life Planner and Journal: 90 Days to Peace and Purpose, is the perfect guide to daily rescue and a way forward into the peace your soul longs for. Rebekah draws from her own battle with depression and anxiety and shares a pathway to establish four life-giving rhythms that quiet inner chaos and make room for a flourishing life: Rest, restore, connect, and create. To pre-order and receive lots of goodies: https://rebekahlyons.com.