Journal entry 061010: Standing full

Having standing water in the corner of my front yard is not the sort of problem I expected to have living in West Texas. Around here we usually want to find more water, not get rid of it.

We first noticed our water problem last summer while planting a new bush. Our yard is designed with low-maintenance in mind. One of my goals when we built a new house was to never have to mow the grass again, so we don’t have any turf grass. The house takes up most of our small lot, and the yard consists of Jasmine groundcover and trees and bushes. One day we noticed the plants in the northwest corner of our lot dying so we decided to replace them with something hardier. But when we dug the hole for the new planting it quickly filled with water and never drained. This was in the hottest part of the summer, and it was a dry year, and it was unbelievable that the hole would stay full of water. That seemed like a Louisiana problem not a West Texas problem. Out here we expect any wet dirt to become dry dust after one day of exposure.

So we spent last fall and winter brainstorming what to do about our underground swamp. We suspected some sort of barrier, like dense clay, was preventing the water from draining. And since the northwest corner was the lowest part of our lot, all the irrigation water ran to the area and accumulated. One solution seemed to be to dig out the corner until we found good dirt and then refill the hole with porous sand. I suggested an alternative might be to plant something that needs a lot of water, one of those plants we usually avoid, like salt cedar or kudzu, to drink up the water, but I knew they would eventually jump across the street and choke out our neighborhood pond and I would be thrown out of town.

So my first free weekend after Easter, I went to work. I couldn’t stall any longer. I dug for four hours on Saturday and another hour on Sunday (Cyndi didn’t think my Saturday hole was big enough). My hole was roughly L-shaped, eight feet on each long side and about three feet each width. I dug about 18” deep into a mixture of clay and soft dirt, apparently the result of the original landscaper tilling the soil to break up the clay. But then I hit a solid layer of clay and I couldn’t go any deeper with a shovel. I put about 2” of water in the hole hoping it would soak into the clay and make it more digable.

But Monday morning the 2” of water was still standing in the hole. It might’ve been deeper having gathered drainage form the rest of the lawn. And at the time of this writing, about three weeks later, I still have several inches of standing water.

So what do I do next is my biggest question. I could get a backhoe and keep digging until I get past the clay, but I’m afraid a backhoe would leave a bigger hole and more damage to my sprinklers than I want. Or I could rent a drill and try to sink deep holes into the clay to allow the water to drain. I have been offered the use of a pickax and a posthole digger, and I’ll probably try those next. But since I don’t know how deep the clay extends, and it may go all the way down to caliche, I have no assurance digging deeper with help.


This week I have been working through I Corinthians 4, and in verse 16 Paul said something that used to frighten me. He said, “I urge you to imitate me.” How could anyone be so bold and presumptuous is what I thought.

Of course, I said the same thing to my kids when teaching them how to run, or how to ski, or ride a bicycle, or read a book. It wasn’t scary to tell them to do it like I did. But when talking about spiritual maturity, like Paul was, I never felt qualified to be the example to be followed.

I was wrong. I thought being mature in Christ meant I was a reservoir of wisdom and knowledge, and I couldn’t hold myself up as an example until I was sufficiently full. But filling up just to be full could be just as destructive to those around me as my water-logged corner of the yard was to my plants.

To be a healthy place for my bushes and trees the soil has to be a conduit for water to pass through, not a jug from which water cannot drain. And so to be a healthy place for other people to grow closer to God I have to be a conduit through which God flows rather than a full reservoir. I can say “imitate me” if I am willing to give it all away.

One of my new rules for living is to give something away every day. I urge you to imitate me. You don’t want to be the sort of person to hold onto stuff and never let it out. You don’t want to hoard the ideas and insights and dreams God has given you. Give it away every day.



“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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