We have a beautiful yard at the house we are currently renting. I always feel it was clear this was a haven of beauty and serenity for the previous owners. I often imagine an elderly couple where the husband designed the garden out of his deep love for his wife. I look forward to walking through the front garden to the front door because I feel I am walking into the breathtaking and warm kiss of a garden designed to welcome, heal, and give joy with each step. Every time I walk on the narrow walkway, the stoic horseradish plant leaves greet me as if guarding the entranceway. Then I pass the Solomon seals that lean into the walkway, gently brushing against me as I walk by the delicate white flowers hanging like silvery bells. The fragrance is so sweet and leads me gently into the open space before the front door. A haven of purple lilac trees and beautiful flowers of vibrant reds and pinks surrounding an elegant maple tree at the center. And at the front of the large windows that stretch the front wall, are the rose bushes, one yellow, one red, with a backdrop of a tree with rose-like pink flowers. This is all surrounded by neatly pruned hedges. It is a haven of beauty, rain or shine. The backyard boasts cherry trees, plum trees, and an apple tree all fit for children to play in and eat from. It has been such a blessing of beauty and joy.
During COVID-19, with children home from school, toddlers home from daycare, and trying to fit in work from home in between, the yard started to become a bit unattended. The children loved it, as they could run barefoot through the plush, long, soft grass. But by the end of the COVID-19 quarantine, the yard had turned into something more like a wildlife preserve, with the children commenting excitedly that perhaps the yard could house rabbits or perhaps even a fawn.
With the lockdown mandate lifted on Sunday, I decided to call a professional landscaping company. They took a look at both yards and drew up a list of work needed on our yard. Though the list was quite long, I wanted to see what they could do, so told them to go for it.
By the end of the day, the yard looked like another world. I felt like a princess walking through the garden at Versailles. The lawn had been mowed several times over and was now a beautiful carpet of green, fit for any picnic, or wrestling match. As the grass was getting long and weeds taking over, it was hard to tell where our mint plants were. But after they cleaned it up, the mints stood tall and proud, without weeds to contend with. Surrounding the mint plants and each tree was a neat contour of neatly raked soil and mulch. Excess branches were cut from the fruit trees and now created a perfect canopy over our heads, the dead branches no longer sweeping down, forcing us to duck in order to get from one end of the yard to another. The hedges had become overgrown with a few branches in particular that were sticking out making them no longer uniform. But they trimmed the hedges which completed the beautiful contour of the yard. As I admired my amazing yard, a neighbor stopped just to compliment me on the hedges.
Before they left, the landscapers asked, “Do you want us to come back in 2 weeks for maintenance?” The question took me by surprise, but I realized, to keep this refreshed look, it took regular maintenance. And that drew a deep and meaningful parallel to life, to the state of our hearts, and the regular tending we also need to do.
We need to tend to our own lives of faith and check-in routinely to our spiritual, emotional, physical state. Our hearts are gardens of our experiences with love – nurturing both the intentionally planted beautiful flowers but also harboring the bothersome weeds that could even overtake our beautiful plants. We must find the unnecessary weeds that might be growing in our hearts. The best is if we can regularly tend to our hearts and regularly weed out what doesn’t belong, “nipping them in the bud” before it ever becomes too large. However, perhaps there is something that has stayed in your heart, unattended and unplucked. It could be growing to the point where it is eating at your life and taking over as the overgrown weeds had been in the bed of mint plants. Likewise, we need to prune aspects that might have become overgrown and hang low from excess dead weight like the hedges and fruit trees. The pruned fruit trees will be healthier paralleling if we regularly rid ourselves of overgrown dead weight, we also can produce much sweeter fruits to offer to the world around us.
We often drive around looking at houses and definitely, we compare yards. It is easy to tell the home that tends regularly to their yard and the ones that are left unattended. Attended yards in a way is a social good, giving the neighborhood an orderly beauty. Likewise, the state of our gardens of love in our hearts, can offer good or clutter to the world around us, especially the state of us as parents. The need for weekly maintenance to maintain the grass, neat contours, and healthy plants and trees stood as a strong reminder to me of the importance of each of our day to day lives of faith, checking in with God regularly, and maintaining my spiritual, emotional, physical health. Just as I don’t want to simply be busy inside my home and forget to tend the beautiful garden surrounding my home; I don’t want to simply be busy with day to day life, without checking in and tending the garden of my heart.
So mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters! Invest in your gardens! Tend to them! Water, feed, cultivate, and beautify what should be there that can send out the beauty and sweet fragrance to your world. It will take the day to day prayer, the study of scriptures, and daily spiritual growth. Check regularly what else is growing there. Weed out what is not necessary, prune off the dead weight, and clear it of what may overtake your life negatively. It will take intentional focus and making time to check-in. Make those regular check-ins with your spiritual mentor or supportive elders who care about your growth. Build time to reflect and thank God for His grace. And with this, you can make your garden beautiful for your family but also for the world to enjoy.