You might say gardening is in my blood. I inherited it from my father. When my father was 14 he began work reforesting the mountains that embraced the valley where he lived in South Wales, mountains that had been denuded by the mines that sustained the town. There grew in his heart a passionate love of trees and plants and he handed it on to me.
I was just three when I began pottering with him in the garden. Like his little shadow, I dug in the soil, learning how to plant seeds and bulbs and then waiting excitedly for their tiny green leaves to peep through the ground. As I grew, so did my understanding of gardening.
I have a lifetime of tilling the soil behind me now and when I read the quote above, I realised how true it is. Whether it's a friendship, a marriage or a family, relationships, like gardens, need tending constantly if they are to grow and remain strong.
And like me, plants need regular feeding if they are to flourish, not once-now-and-then-when-I-think-of-it sort of feeding but diligent, disciplined feeding to keep the plant vibrant and healthy. Relationships are no different. We can neglect them because of busyness or thoughtlessness but they will deteriorate, just like the garden.
I'm an introvert and anyone who expects me to be the life of the party will be sorely disappointed. I would love to be extroverted and outgoing but that's not who I am. But I am a listener, a reflector and I'd love to sit with you one on one and share your heart. Thankfully we are all different and each of us brings colour and texture to the blossoming of our relationships. Maybe the richest part of any relationship is the coming to know, understand and value our differences.
We all have a tendency to give the other person what we think they want or what we'd like someone to do for us and that can miss them completely. Perhaps this is the hardest work of all, putting myself aside long enough to really know the other person's heart.
Gardening is never finished — weeding, feeding, pruning, mulching. Pruning takes courage but over the years I've discovered it's the secret to a good garden. I've helped friends prune their roses and remember the look of shock on their face as I reduce a large bush to a stump just a few inches from the ground but I assure them they will have the best roses next summer. It's not easy to be honest with each other or to take that honesty to heart myself but tough love is the path to deep meaningful relationship that thrive. The harvest is worth every ounce of my investment.
"Bold love is courageously setting aside our personal agenda to move humbly into the world of others with their well-being in view, willing to risk further pain in our souls, in order to be an aroma of life to some and an aroma of death to others." Dan Allender