Mow That Grass!

One of the places we lived when I was a child was an old antebellum house in Georgia that survived Sherman’s march to the sea. A former carriage road ran in front of the graceful (but falling down) house which was serviced by an outhouse just off the carriage road. The house had no bathroom, no running water. A log cabin off to one side of the house and surrounded by a sea of yellow daffodils in the spring was the first slave cabin in our county. The house had history galore…but no comfort.

The highway ran behind the house instead of in front of it. Every school morning we had a long trek down the red clay driveway to the bus stop. Because the field surrounding the house was by default our front yard, one of my jobs was to mow it with a push mower. Mowing the actual front yard that adjoined the carriage road was a relatively quick and easy job except for twice—once when a swarm of bees took objection to the mower and once when I moved some debris out of the way and unknowingly disturbed a wasp nest. Mowing the three-acre back yard/front yard, however, was pretty much an all-day job.

No one else in the family—parents, grandmother, six younger siblings—wanted to mow. They rather questioned my sanity for enjoying the arduous task. That’s because they didn’t know my secret.

My secret was that even though I pushed the mower through grass and weeds, picking up rocks that were in the path, and avoiding harmless snakes and baby rabbits—I wasn’t just mowing the yard. I was building stories. With every forward thrust of the mower characters emerged and conversations evolved. Every time I tugged the mower to life with the pull rope and started through the enormous field—new stories, new conversations, new book plots materialized from the green expanse in front of me.

I don’t remember if I ever came in from mowing and wrote down any of the stories. I rather doubt it. I was probably too hot, too tired, too sweaty—and with no running water in the house and no bathroom—I couldn’t jump into the shower and wash off the sweat. With a household of ten and no privacy, baths were sponge baths in a basin and timing them right for the sake of modesty was challenging. Nonetheless, I loved to mow. I still do.

Any physical task that requires more brawn than brain is an ideal opportunity to people my head with characters, conversations, and story plots. It’s not work, it’s not a chore—it’s an exercise in imagination building.

The Bible says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might,” Ecclesiastes 9:10.

Work presents an opportunity for imagination building. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle


Vacations are good for many reasons including expanding experiences. Writers are often advised to write about what they know. Research is great, but there are still things one will probably not learn through research alone.

Had I not moved to Scotland, I would never have known that it stays light up until 11 p.m. in the summer. I would never have known that it is cool to cold even in the “summer” and that it rains almost every day—especially in the marine climate where we live. I would not have known that when something is sickening it scunners people; when something is shaky it is shoogly; wet, grey, and rainy days are dreich; imagining things is havering; juice is any kind of drink besides coffee and tea – meaning all sodas; that tea is not only tea to drink but also the evening meal; that when someone is sick they look peelie-wallie, and that paddocks are frogs.

We just got back from a vacation, an enjoyable bus tour to “the borders” between Scotland and England. My favorite part of the vacation was the evening meal that I did not have to cook. We visited interesting places including Abbotsford, the castle-like home of author Sir Walter Scott who is famous for his literary works, his compassion and appreciation of people from all stations in life—an oddity during his lifespan from 1771 to 1832, and his quotes: “Is death the last sleep? No, it is the last and final awakening.” “The misery of keeping a dog is his dying so soon.” “Love rules the court, the camp, the grave, and men below, and the saints above, for love is heaven and heaven is love.”

Some of the tour was a bit like hard work; rising early for breakfast and boarding the bus, uncomfortable adventures like getting stuck in bathrooms, and—for someone like me who hates shopping—getting dropped off in cities and left to wander up and down the streets looking at things that I have no interest in purchasing. On a hip that needs replacing.

Getting home and back to the computer was more than a joy to me. It was a vacation-vacation. Reconnecting with family and friends to share their needs for prayer and to celebrate their achievements, getting back to work on the book I started before we left, and spending time with our precious Savannah again and taking her on walks. As Sir Walter Scott said, the tragedy of dog ownership is that we outlive them and that makes every day with them—every walk with them—priceless.

Writing is hard work. But God works too. “Praise the LORD! His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonderful works to be remembered.” Psalm 111: 1-4.

You don’t need to leave your house to have a vacation if you love your life and your work. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle


Here in Scotland, a rock mansion was built in 1790, complete with ornate stone gateposts.

After he inherited it, owner James Douglas Fletcher spent an enormous amount of his wealth creating “a mansion to supersede all others.” Rosehaugh premiered as an elaborate four-square, three-story, 60-room showplace of unbelievable opulence, built with the finest construction materials, and filled with valuable furnishings from around the world. The mansion to supersede all others was completed in 1893. A mere 66 years later, the mansion was demolished. Today, 121 years later, all that remains of Rosehaugh are two ornate stone gateposts leading to nowhere.

That’s a good warning to us. We build our lives every day. Are we building something permanent that will remain when we leave this earth, or are we building grand and eloquent gateposts to nothing?

It is not wrong for Christians to have and to spend money. The Bible encourages us to work. It promises that in all labor there is profit. It tells us to work with all our might. It affirms the right of Christians to get paid for working. “He who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope…the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:10-14)

If we work and are rewarded financially with a good income, we should have the freedom to spend what is left after God’s tithe on whatever will benefit us in this life so we can continue to be productive. But how wide is the gap between what we really need and what we build? Are we building to impress others, or building gateposts in Heaven?

Once I lived under a bridge in the back of a pickup truck, painting signs for meals and washing myself and my clothes in the river – even on the coldest days of winter. I had little, but I had everything I needed.

Once I lived in an open-ended garden center. I had no bathroom facilities, no kitchen facilities, no air conditioning in the 100-plus degree summers and very little heat on the 16-degree winter days. I took showers with the cold water in the garden hose and slept on a lawn chair mattress on top of three wooden planks. Toads, birds, a wild cat, and other critters came in and out to visit. I had everything I needed. I had Jesus.

I’ve been without things that most people view as necessities, but I’ve never been poor.

“The blessing of the LORD, it makes rich.” Proverbs 10:22.

Jesus encouraged, “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20, 21)

As commanding as it was in its time, Rosehaugh is gone. Two stone gateposts stand as reminders that not even an enormous amount of wealth spent on things in this world can secure them or make them permanent.

Jesus is the only foundation for eternal life. Living for Him is just as possible under a bridge or in a derelict half-shell of a building as it is in a palace or grandiose showplace like Rosehaugh.

Jesus was born in a stable. His first visitors were poor shepherds, hated and despised by the wealthy. We have a God that cannot be bought or sold for money; One Who only accepts the freewill offering of our hearts.