3 Lessons From an Ugly Backyard


We live in an old house. Over the past 10+ years that we’ve lived here, we’ve done improvements, but one place that has not seen many changes is our backyard. Before we had children, this wasn’t such a big deal to me, but now, I think about how nice it would be for the kids to have a big place to run around in and just be kids.

This is our backyard.


It’s just dirt with a somewhat dangerous drop down the hill. The deck (or what’s left of it) is unstable. So, you can see why I don’t let the kids play back there.

As much as I wish we had a nice backyard, its present state has taught me many important life lessons.

A Lesson on Priorities

We have postponed any work on our yard simply because there were other more pressing needs. A yard makeover was going to cost money and time, which we didn’t have to spare for a project like that. We had to be wise with the resources that has been given to us. As I’ve shared before, we really see ourselves more as stewards rather than owners of our earthly goods.

A Lesson on Patience

We’ve been saving money to tackle this home improvement, but that takes a long time when we can only set aside a small amount from each paycheck. Moreover, there were often unexpected expenses that would deplete the savings account, like a major plumbing repair or my husband losing his job. I also had to learn patience by not nagging my husband about the yard when there was really nothing much he could do about it at the time.

A Lesson on Contentment

This was an important lesson for our whole family, including our children. Rather than complaining about what we didn’t have, we need to be thankful and make the most of the blessings that we already have. We have plenty of nice parks nearby, where the kids have more than enough running room. We also have an enclosed front patio that our kids can play in. When they were smaller, they would ride their trikes in a circle, like a carousel. I felt sorry for them at first, but they were actually quite happy.


We’ve been able to save some money now to do some things to our yard. And, my husband has been putting in whatever little free time he has to fixing it up. I know that it will still take some time, and we will have to continue to draw from those lessons.

But whatever happens, the value of these lessons far surpasses even the most amazing HGTV backyard makeover.

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

What have you learned lately from your present circumstances?


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21 thoughts on “3 Lessons From an Ugly Backyard

  1. Ai, I love this! I also have an “ugly” backyard. You’re right. It serves as a lesson in contentment in many ways for us.

    When we moved in the yard was bad, the trim on the house was unpainted, things were just falling apart. Slowly but surely we’re making repairs. One day as we were standing outside a man pulled up and said, “I just want to let you know you are doing a great job! Your house keeps looking better and better!” It was so nice to hear the encouragement. Living in a neighborhood where all the houses look cookie cutter perfect has been a good lesson for me in patience.

    I needed to hear this today.

    1. A similar thing happened to us when we first began doing some improvements to our house. A neighbor left us a note in the mail telling us we were doing a good job. 🙂 Thanks for doing the link up again!

  2. Hi Ai. I always love your writing. It represents a kind of elegance in you which is approachable. I loved this post very much. So one vote on TMB for u. The lessons you mentioned here r so important. Prioritizing things sorts out many issues. It is my favorite strategy. When it comes to contentment, not many people are ready to learn and practice it. I have seen them compating themselves to others all the time and mourning over what they don’t have. When I observed this personally I realized how they are not enjoying their already well settled lifes. It is then that I decided not to fall in that trap. Contentment is such an important lesson to lead a happy life. Thanks 4 reminding it ☺

    1. Thank you, Jaya, for sending such kind words my way! Contentment is not always an easy pill to swallow, especially when often confuse our wants with our needs.
      Thank you also for the vote on TMB! Sent you a vote as well!

  3. Oh the lesson on contentment… Isn’t it always easier said than done? Being thankful instead of complaining about the things that we don’t have (like what you said) is a habit I need to relearn again and again! This post is very timely =)

    1. Oh, of course, easier said than done! The best and most important lessons in life are usually like that! Thanks for reading, Viviene!

  4. I love the way you find the positive in life! We live in an apartment in the city so there is no backyard for us either. I think one of the great positives is how much it causes me to go explore and find fun new areas for the kids to run free. The number of amazing parks and play areas has made this summer such a great one. 🙂

    1. Yes, us too! We wouldn’t have found some of the parks that we regularly frequent if it wasn’t for the lack of play space at home.

  5. Why can’t you and your husband get out in the back yard and cut down some of those trees yourself? Use a handsaw or rent an electric one and cut down and haul off those trees. Also, replacing the boards on the deck is an easy fix. Lumber for those boards is relatively inexpensive – let’s say that the boards are 4 feet wide, buy a longer board (perhaps 10 feet long to allow for mistakes) instead of buying a 6 foot one and you can get two boards out of one piece. My husband had virtually no handyman skills when we met. I taught him many things as my father had taught me. Some of it is just common sense. Look at how the old boards are attached and copy that for putting in the new boards. Even if you can only afford to buy 2-3 boards at a time, it is a start. I would be afraid to have my deck in that condition if I had small children. Good, old-fashioned elbow grease can take care of a lot of needed fixes around the home. My husband is disabled and I am on chemotherapy for lymphoma, but we still manage to get quite a bit done around our home and we are seniors (59 and 62). IF it is a project we cannot do ourselves, THEN we take out of our tiny savings and hire it out. There are ways it can be done. Doing the work yourselves, which this looks like you could easily do, will save you a LOT of money and worry. Good luck!

    1. Thanks for the tips, Cate! My husband was able to do more since this I published this post. Now, the deck is completely gone! Good thing because underneath it all, he discovered that the boards were not even attached to the bottom posts. That’s crazy! Hopefully, he’ll have time in the coming weeks to start building a new one. Thank God for YouTube! He’s actually quite excited to learn a lot from this experience, and I’m sure it will be rewarding once it’s built.
      BTW, I didn’t know you’re on chemo. I’m encouraged that even with what you’re going through, you’re so positive and seeking to inspire other parents through your blog. God bless!

  6. Love this! I’ve been thinking on the need to be content in all circumstances, even ones that aren’t ideal, lately.
    Our backyard is a work in progress too. 🙂 I was just telling my husband we need to take a weekend and just spend the entire time working on projects out there and get it done!

    1. Today it’s the ugly backyard. Tomorrow it’s the old kitchen. There’s always something. One of these days we’ll all be done with our home improvement projects and be welcomed in the mansions of glory, right?

  7. This is the first post from you blog that I’ve read and I love your writing style! Very personable and honest. We have these lessons to learn–to be content with what we have rather than sad for what we don’t. I’ve found many times it’s not even because I want them for myself, but mostly I want to make sure my family has what I feel it needs. I get reminders from time to time that things like nice backyards and the latest style or tech trend are nice, but they truly value the time and effort put into the family. Sure, it may not always seem that way, but deep down, I know they appreciate everything. Thank you for a wonderful perspective!

  8. Contentment is so important! As much as I would like a bigger place, I know that the Lord has us here right now for a reason. XO

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