I might have cut too much. I can not be sure yet. Only time will tell. Ah, well… the flower beds around my house haven’t had the attention they have needed, so I’ve been trying to be more conscientious. Maybe you, like me, have discovered that every time you say “yes” to one thing, in reality, you must say “no” to something else. Oh, I know, we never really believe we’ll have to say “no” to anything else; we believe we’ll just squeeze one more thing in. I know… as if you’ve had extra time and energy just waiting for that one more meaningful activity to fulfill you, right? Just between you and me, I’ve got a hunch you have felt as overwhelmed by your crazy schedule as I have felt by mine. But it’s just one more thing, right?
So every time I have added something new to my schedule, something else has suffered. My way of combatting this issue is to simply ignore it. You, too? I have avoided looking closely at my yard’s flower beds, because at a glance, they still look marvelous. The whole yard looks green and full of life, very unlike the barren yard we purchased six years ago. Growth is good, right? One morning, the light pink knockout rose out by the road waved at me as I left for my walk, and I couldn’t help but take pity upon her plight. She was eaten up by black spot, and had scarcely enough leaves left to beckon me. It was my fault. I hadn’t sprayed her, nor her sisters around back, in a long while. I hung my head in shame, strapped on a face mask and gave them all a good spraying. (I know that some of you may be more natural in your approach, so forgive me my sins in this area. Black spot is a result of the fall and I’m just trying to rescue my beautiful girls from the plague that attacks them.)
I made a vow to spend just a few minutes every morning in my flower beds. Just a few minutes, nothing much. No major projects, as I didn’t have much extra time. It has been remarkably satisfying to place limits on this task. I have enjoyed finding my new “troubled area” each morning and tidying it up through weeding and pruning. This morning was the day for me to tackle the Queen of Knockout Roses in my yard. She’s mammoth. She’s a big girl and not ashamed to flaunt it. She’s magnificent. I haven’t seriously pruned her in a few years because her spread and sprawl brings so much character, substance, and beauty to our back garden. Nevertheless, she had flowered so beautifully that she was now littered with the empty buds, a sad reminder that her glory had gone and her petals were lost in the wind. It was time to clean her up a bit, so that she could flower freely once again. But she is so big… where to start?
I started where I could, at the top. She stands almost as tall as me, and spreads out a good five to six feet all around. The more I clipped, the more I began to discover the problem. My past neglect had caused all her branches to strain forward towards the sun, and the limbs I should have clipped off long ago were now tangled up in limbs that were healthy. In the tangled overgrowth, I saw that I would have to practically strip her naked, to help her be as healthy as she needed to be to continue to thrive. This was heart breaking.
Her front foliage was so profuse, you see, that until I began to patiently cut back what I knew was in her best interest, I could not tell how bad her problem was. Her beautiful growth had hidden how unhealthy she had become. She needed my help, but I hated to cut away so much of her. She’d practically be in her underwear by the end. As I pulled aside branch after branch, cutting only those I was certain must be cut, I was astounded to discover an eight inch pine sapling growing at her base. Up it came. There were also a couple of crape myrtle sprouts at her base, no surprise because our back yard is filled with their beauty, too. But there was also a thick, ugly vine that had grown up around many of her branches, and had actually tied her a nearby tree. How had this happened? And low and behold, there was about an eighteen inch sweet gum tree growing snugly hidden under her leaves. The poor girl had been bombarded by foreign growth that was stealing away her soil, her moisture, and the fertilizer I had faithfully applied around her base. I was stunned by all the hidden enemies I discovered under my beautiful Queen. As the picture above shows, she is lighter, thinner, and healthier.
In my own life, I had planned to work out a great deal of new “growth” this week, by writing a good portion of the new season of The Journey Bible Study: “Journey with Jesus.” I was able to write for a while, but I came under such a fierce and overwhelming attack of the enemy, and then utter exhaustion, that I have had to leave that work safely undone on my end, but in my Father’s hands. I have needed to rest, to spend quiet, unplanned time with my boys, and have missed my husband like crazy while he is off on a mission trip with the youth. God, it seems, has been weeding and pruning me this week in ways I cannot even clearly discern yet. But I know His pruning shears, and I know when I am being cut back. Like the Queen, my sap weeps a bit at the new injuries and it will take time for the wounds to seal over. I am beginning to glimpse the little sucker branches that have been stealing precious energy from me, and I am beginning to name the other saplings that have been competing for my nutrients, living water, and fertilizer. I’m pretty sure that some strong vines have tied me down just a bit as well, in an area too painful to name here.
Unlike my garden’s neglect, my Father Gardener has not been inattentive whatsoever. His timing is perfect. I have tried to keep in step with His Spirit, and I try to keep a listening, responsive heart. No, I don’t hear His voice of chiding, calling me out of disobedience. I hear Him pulling back the beautiful growth to show me we have a new season to enter, one that must begin with a harsh pruning. I trust Him. He knows exactly where to make the cuts, and which branches must go, even if they are some of my very favorite branches. This morning, like the Queen, my primary canes are a little lighter, and the wind and sunlight more easily penetrates to my very roots. The breeze is refreshing, and the sunlight is warm. No matter how I might miss that covering, I know without a doubt, my Gardener did not cut too much.