Pulling Weeds from the Landscaping Bed and From the Marriage Bed

As we pulled into the driveway from a weeklong vacation, I immediately went back in time and experienced the pre-vacation regret. You know, it is that feeling you have when you wish you had pushed yourself even harder before you left, so that when you got home you could extend the vacation relaxation period. I meant to weed the front landscaping bed in our yard. It is the first bed I see when I get close to the house and the recent rains encouraged even more weeds to cultivate, come to life and conquer the area underneath the Dogwood tree. Just like this home-from-vacation mode, it also experienced signs of duress.

MIKE: Signs…I’d say more like immediate whiplash in mid-sentence. After an eleven-hour drive home I was tired and wanted to go to bed. My wife started to say, thanks for driving, when she turned her head and said, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t tell what we planted and what are weeds. We have some work ahead of us this week.” Just what a guy wants to hear, when all I want to do is stretch my legs and give my eyes a rest for a bit, before unloading the car.

The next day I hopped out of bed, gently nudged my husband and said let’s go weed and get that done early before the sun gets too hot. I should have remembered that mornings work at a different pace in our house. My husband is a night owl, and I like to get things done, well, NOW, before anything else distracts us; diversion is a high probability with four kids and three dogs. The likelihood of distraction is even higher when it is a job that is not all that fun in the first place.

MIKE: It was neither a nudge, nor a sweet whisper in my ear. It was a push for sure, AND, what motivated me was avoiding another conversation about weeds. After I unloaded the car last night, we had a discussion that crossed from weeds in the yard to weeds in our marriage, and the need to prune the plants to allow for more good growth. Somewhere in my groggy state, I could not tell immediately if she meant let’s actually pull weeds or have another marital conversation about kids, priorities and getting on the same page.

At 7:30 in the morning we started weeding. At first the 8-foot-by-4-foot bed looked overwhelming with all of the overgrowth. Once we started to pull, however, we together made piles of “yuk” on the grass. Some of the plants had a mixture of green stems and brown stems. In the pruning process, some of the good greens got pulled up with the dead stalks; however, we knew it was the right thing to do.

MIKE: About a half hour in I have to say it felt good. We did not talk much, which I preferred, but somehow we worked in unison toward the same goal. Our lower backs felt the pinch of bending over for extended periods of time, but, to my amazement, she agreed that we would only do this one bed today; therefore, we pushed through the pain. As the weeds disappeared, the healthy plants had more room to grow and bloom.

We both changed our attitude in the process of cleaning out that area of the yard. We even joked that couples that weed together, stay together. In the process of tidying up, I was reminded of a chapter from the book Crossroads, written by Paul William Young, author of the better-known book, The Shack. The main character in Crossroads “awakens” after an illness and described his heart as a moss-filled landscape; over time it clears.

Let me be clear about something, I don’t like to weed. I am not now, and don’t predict in the future, I will be a weeding volunteer extraordinaire. I do see the benefits though of clearing the way for rich, energy-giving growth; getting rid of the junk that is filling the space; and ultimately pruning bad growth that will suck the life out of beauty. That message is universal.

MIKE: Funny thing is, at about 45 minutes into the job, she got a work-related call. In fairness to her, she told me it was coming. I got so motivated in the yard cleanse that I kept going. It gave me time to actually go beyond the surface of the argument last night about – kids, dogs, money, priorities, you name it – to see that taking time out to clean, clear, and prune is good for any fertile ground. No, we won’t be adding more kids, but we have a lot of landscape left after 24 years of marriage to plant new ideas and deepen the healthy roots that are already there.

I know things happen for a reason, but somehow, I still don’t actually see it until after the fact. Had we weeded before vacation, it would have been just another task to rush through and check off the list without a second thought. Post vacation, after we cleaned the bed, we added mulch and some yard art to give it a new look, took a walk and enjoyed the fruits of our labor.

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