Feb 27, 2017

Crowding & Pruning: Lesson from Gardening

I recently planted some mint and rosemary together in a small planter. I love having fresh herbs for my recipes and it ends up saving a lot of money compared to buying prepackaged bunches whenever needed. I tried growing mint last summer and whether it was the intense heat or my lack of gardening skills, it shriveled up and died. I didn't have much hope for this mint plant, but since it was less than $4 for the plant I figured it was worth another shot. To my surprise, the mint has been coming along nicely, albeit a bit too nicely. It has begun crowding out the rosemary and to my (somewhat untrained four eyes) keeping the rosemary from growing because of limited space. Every day as I step outside on my balcony and water my herbs, I see the mint spreading out in the planter, marking its territory a tiny bit more.

Don't get me wrong. I love mint. In my water and other drinks, in my fruit salads (along with a bit of money and vanilla extract... yum!), and in herb marinades for my meats. But I also want my rosemary to have enough room to thrive. I don't want it to be stunted because of the mint's rapid growth.

I was thinking about this and it suddenly hit me. Duh, I need to prune the mint. I need to start using it so that there's more space. I gently tore off a few sprigs and as I rinsed them off, a thought came to mind.

How often do things get crowded out in my life? And not just that, but how often do they get crowded out by otherwise good things?

This question definitely applies to my relationship with God.
How often do I allow productivity and busyness crowd out time when I could be spending in stillness, reflecting on what I am learning in the Bible? How often am I more concerned about crossing things off my list than carving out time to talk to my Heavenly Father? Additionally, how often am I looking so intently at what I want to do with my life, that my own plans are crowding out what God wants to do in my life? Am I willing to prune other things out so that there is more time to spend drawing near to God?

What about in my relationships?
How often do I crowd out people who may be quieter than me because I want the attention or applause? Or how often do I go on and on about a topic I want to talk about and miss cues that the person I am talking with wants to share something too? How often do I make my dreams, my goals, my plans a priority and crowd out time to really hear my husband share his heart and thoughts with me? Am I willing to prune out things I enjoy if it means making more time to really listen to other people, especially my husband?

It is pretty humbling to see areas where I crowd out great things (specifically cultivating relationship with God and people) with good things (productivity, goal planning, reading, etc). Don't get me wrong. These things aren't bad in themselves. But when I allow too much of my time, emotions, and attention to be concentrated on these things, I am watering them and helping them grow to the point that they're crowding out opportunities to be intentional about my relationships with God and with people.

This was something I thought about at the end of 2016 as I realized that yes, I may have read more than ever before. An yes, I may have crossed off lots of things off my lists and yearly goals. But somewhere along the way, I got lost in the weeds. I chose to water things that may not have been wrong or bad, but that certainly did distract me at times from time with my husband, opportunities to pray and study God's Word, and emotional energy to invest in new friendships. I crowded out my schedule, my time, and my mind with things that I wanted to accomplish, and meanwhile left little space for cultivating what really matters -- loving God deeply and loving people deeply. Oftentimes, I settled for a superficial love instead of going too deep because I was either short on time or short on energy.

Thankfully I have a God who forgives and is unfailing in His love, so there is hope. And also, I have a husband who forgives me and loves me in a way that reflects that same forgiveness and love. I am trying to work at limiting distractions, prioritizing great things first and good things second, and investing more space to my God and to people rather than to what I want to do with my time. Again, It's not wrong to have goals or to do things I enjoy (like reading), but I want to be attentive to when I am allowing too much time to these things.

What does this look like practically for me right now? I am still learning.  I still like to bullet journal and cross things off my lists, but lately I have been learning to slow down and let go of doing too much. Instead, I have been trying to keep my evenings and  weekends free so that I can be available to have quality time with Greg rather than being distracted by too much noise and busyness, opportunities to pray and reflect on Biblical truth, and to carve out time to invite a friend out for coffee to get to know them better or send a letter in the mail to a friend who lives afar.  I have been trying to keep away from social media from 9pm-9am as well as Sundays. And I am praying for wisdom to continue this pruning season in my schedule so that I can take care of my self well with things I truly enjoy while also making ample space and time for growing closer to God, to my husband, and to the people God has placed in my life in this season.

What about you? Are there things, maybe even good things, that are crowding out opportunities to dig deeper into the relationships in your life, with God, with your significant others, with family, with friends, coworkers, etc? Are you willing to do some pruning to cultivate more intentional space in your schedule, your heart, and your thoughts? I'd love to hear what has been helping you since this is an ongoing journey and I want to grow in this area.

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Elle Alice