"MAINTENANCE REQUIRED"

While I left home to come up and write this, Kathy stayed behind so she could continue scrubbing and spraying off the front porch. Over the past few months we’d been pretty busy dealing with other things, so it had gotten a little neglected.

Meanwhile, the spiders were weaving their webs and rolling their prey up in those little sticky balls. That green grime was starting to appear on the rails and decking, and there was quite a bit of dirt that had gotten blown in on the siding and up on the ceiling.

Now we’re usually pretty good about maintaining things. Just yesterday, we were putting some more paint on the walls in the center, and I’ve been busy doing trim at home to finally finish up a remodel job I started last year.

But sometimes, you get distracted. There’s always a lot to do, and in this case, the porches got left in the lurch. We actually started on the back porch last weekend after installing the last of 8 replacement outdoor lights on the back deck. Once again, it was spider balls everywhere.

So yesterday, Kathy finished it up, and this morning, I found her out front with her brush and soap bucket. She said she knew how much we used to like sitting out there and just had to clean it up. We’d gone through some tough times earlier in the year, and lots of things were just left undone.

Over the past four or five months, we’ve been working pretty hard to go back and fix things, and we’ve been knocking them out, one by one. When you’ve got a pretty long list, that’s the only way you can do it. Pick something and just jump in. When you finish it up, pick something else from the list and move on to the next one.

I remember when we first bought the property. It was just a mess of undeveloped trees and scrub brush. I guess I went a little crazy with the chainsaw and before we knew it, we had a couple acres of trees cut helter-skelter in every direction. It was like someone had just dumped a big box of giant tinker-toys.

It was pretty overwhelming. I cut up the trees and she dragged the brush to the burn pile. Lots of it. For days. Every weekend, that’s what we did. I cut, she dragged. She dragged, and I cut. Even in the winter. If I thought about how much there was to do, I’d get depressed.

The only way to handle it was to pick out an area to work on, and say “today, that’s how much I want to get done.” Then, we just hit it. At the end of the day, if we cleared that section, we felt pretty good.

Over the course of the fall and winter, we actually got it all cleared out and they were able to come in and remove the stumps and all of a sudden, we had a nice space for the house. Looking back, it doesn’t seem that bad.

Have you ever felt that way? When you’re in the soup it seems impossible to swim but later you realize you made it through O.K. I wish we had pictures of that mess of trees all piled up. We need to remember how we made it through the tough times, and who helped us through, too.

When we’re facing another big challenge, we’ll be able to say, “We’ve done tough things before, we can do this, too.” I think that’s why God told the Israelites to tell the stories to their children and their children’s children. He said to write it on their hearts. We need to remember.

You can’t let things get too bad before dealing with them. Ignoring little pains early can let bad things grow and fester that left unchecked, can be life threatening. Some forms of cancer are very treatable if you catch them early. But a lifetime of too much bad cholesterol can clog your arteries to the point where only bypass surgery will save you.

It’s the same way with relationships. If you quit talking, sooner or later, someone’s going to start walking. I’ve learned the hard way that burying old bones doesn’t keep them from coming back up. Sooner or later you’ve got to deal with them.

This year we’ve been so distracted that even the garden didn’t produce like it should have. We’ve focused so much time on us, making sure we were going out for walks, talking, and just spending time together, that the weeds took over the tomato plants.

Usually it’s a bumper crop with more tomatoes than we could ever hope to eat, can, or give away. Because of the lack of maintenance, the weeds stole the energy needed for our vegetables to thrive. But it’s better to have weeds in the garden than weeds in our hearts. Next year, things will be different.

I just spoke with someone in the gym. He said they’d been away for two weeks doing different things and now it’s almost like starting over. I told him that we really need to learn how to keep active when we’re traveling.

It’s not too hard if you plan for it. There are daily passes at gym memberships. Most YMCA’s let you attend free if you’re a member elsewhere. If nothing else, I’ll do pushups, sit-ups and body squats in the hotel. If they don’t have a workout room, there’s always walking or jogging outdoors.

But that won’t work if you’re not maintaining things already. It takes regular effort to keep things alive and even more work if you want things to thrive. And if you’ve neglected things for quite awhile, it can seem overwhelming.

But you can turn things around. Unhealthy hearts can become stronger. Gardens can grow again. Sometimes surgery is required, but hopefully you catch it in time. You’ve just got to dig in and get started.

Don’t let things get too out of control. Trust me on this. It’s much easier to nip things in the bud early. A little talk now can prevent heartache later. A little maintenance now can keep things running smoothly. A little exercise now will actually keep you running.

As for me, right now, I’m heading home to enjoy sitting on that nice clean front porch! Then, I’ll probably get on that baseboard trim. There’s work to be done!

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