I was out raking up the sweet gums balls in the yard…again. I never realized what an arboreous pain sweet gum trees are; beautiful, yes, but there’s nothing sweet about stepping on one of those blasted seed balls that drop in the spring and fall. The little buggers can be downright treacherous!
Try to mow the yard with them hiding in the grass, and they go flying like so many high-velocity projectiles. You’d better hope you have shoes on or your foot can be impaled by the hard spikes on this leftover seed casing. Even with shoes on, the little sphere doesn’t politely crush when stepped on; oh no, when it rolls underfoot, it can send the unsuspecting bi-ped flying, giving the same effect as slipping on a banana peel.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of them in my front yard…every year.
I have asserted myself with Bob in that we really ought to invest (yes, I see it as an investment) in removing the tree before someone gets seriously injured, like me. His argument includes that it’s a perfectly healthy tree, it gives shade to the front of the house, and no one has injured themselves in the almost 30 years we’ve lived here.
So, I rake.
I suppose it’s good exercise since I feel it the next day. As I was getting some of this done, I asked the Lord, “do You have anything to say to me about these sweet gum balls???”
That’s okay. Just keep raking. A couple days later, I was able to ignite the burn pile with this year’s Christmas tree, some left over leaves, and an impressive pile of sweet gum balls. I can’t just throw them in the compost bin as they are nigh indestructible and can take YEARS to break down. Good grief, they don’t even burn down all the way!
So after the conflagration, I came in to do a little research. I can’t be all alone in this particular landscaping challenge. For example, did you know…
…sweet gums balls can be used as a protective barrier to prevent little furry things (like bunnies) from desecrating the garden? This also includes dogs and cats doing their thing, as well as slugs who enjoy ruining the hostas. The spikes hurt their feet also! (Or foot, in the case of the slug, I suppose.)
…sweet gums balls can also be used as mulch? Not only do they help prevent weeds from getting the requisite sunlight, but they allow the rain to soak in for the desired plants as well.
…Native Americans used to make tea from the sweet gum tree to treat flu symptom? Evidently, some form of sweet gum is a fairly good resource for our modern influenza vaccine. (Who’dathunk??)
Makes me realize that what I see as irritating, even painful, with some research (i.e., prayer) can be revealed as the very provision of God. There may be some back breaking work involved, gathering, placing. God usually makes me put some skin in the game, so that’s not surprising (the sweet gum balls aren’t going to move themselves.)
The Apostle Paul understood about prickly, uncomfortable things—
“So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.”
And, in another place Paul realizes a very important lesson about God’s provision—
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
I’ve saved back “a few” (relative term) of my sweet gum leftovers this year, but for the garden only. (I’ll probably just have my usual black tea to drink…with ibuprofen.)
2 Corinthians 12:7; Romans 8:28 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.