How To Grow Love

Happy Saturday!I am excited to welcome award winning author Carolyn Wade to this platform as a guest blogger this weekend. Regardless of our age or experience with love we get to receive such incredible wisdom from her. Carolyn has been married for over 50 years, lived in three different countries as a married woman and understands what love is like when your love is long distance and committed to surviving during hard times. Today she shares insight from that experience.Without further adieu, a blog post written by the lovely Carolyn:

“Imagine a beautiful garden. It’s a place that encourages rest while engaging the senses with bright colors, intriguing textures, tantalizing fragrance, and perhaps birdsong. It’s enclosed, protected, a place of refreshing, a sanctuary.

Imagine that your marriage is like that garden—a place of delight and refuge, peace and security. You might shake your head at such an analogy, but I believe that the same principles apply to both. I’ve loved gardening since I was a child, and I’ve been in love with my husband for more than fifty years. Spending time and effort on both, I’ve learned that a thriving marriage, like a thriving garden, requires specific thought and attention. Here are four common essentials:

BOUNDARIES: Did you ever read “The Secret Garden?” It’s a classic book about a friendship that grows and thrives when two lonely children take over a neglected, locked garden. Self-discovery and friendship grow within garden walls that keep others from intruding.

While our current back yard garden isn’t a “secret” place, it has a five-foot fence that offers us privacy and security. The fence not only provides a safe space for us to enjoy a summer evening, but it’s a frame for my garden, supporting flowering vines and providing a place for me to hang birdhouses and wind chimes. The fence protects plants from strong winds and damage by the neighborhood dogs.  

Garden bench.jpg

Garden bench.jpg

Boundaries are essential to the healthy relationships as well as healthy gardens. The boundary of the marriage covenant keeps our love protected from the intrusion of others. Routines of regular times for undistracted (and unplugged) connection maintain a fence that keeps love thriving.

SOIL: Plant roots are kept stable and nutrients are delivered through soil. Soil in marriage is comprised of common values, principles, godly character and integrity. Some of us grew up observing good marriages, giving us an idea what kind of foundation we’d need. Others had a different experience and find it more challenging to establish or maintain stability in relationships. But just as gardeners evaluate the soil of their plot and then add whatever is lacking, we can also evaluate and amend the foundation of our relationship. Seminars, books, counseling and hanging around people in good marriages can help us assess what might be lacking and gain the tools for necessary adjustments so that our love can thrive.

I’ve visited two gorgeous gardens that were created in abandoned rock quarries. Only from the visitors brochure did we understand the expense of importing soil and organic matter and the years of patient waiting for plants to take root and thrive. Starting with good soil is much easier, but rock quarry gardens can give us hope that even desolate or neglected places can become productive and beautiful.

LIGHT: Light is an essential part of that equation you may have learned in high school biology—photosynthesis—the process that turns the sun’s light into energy, causing plants to grow and thrive. Just as plants naturally move toward light, seeking the source of power for growth, each of us has a unique spiritual drive toward Jesus, the Light of the world. In a good marriage, each partner not only seeks the light, but helps the other move toward the light.

Several years ago, I discovered the book “Sacred Pathways,” by Gary Thomas. The author examines specific ways we might connect with God—through music and worship, nature, serving others, or in-depth study of scripture, for example. Each is a legitimate way to receive Light; none is more “spiritual” than the others. For my husband and me, this understanding helps us freely encourage each other on our individual path without judging the other’s journey. As each of us receives more light, our love deepens and grows.

WATER: The life-giving and refreshing properties of water are like the kindness and loving care in a good relationship. Just as someone who is careless or stingy with water will never have a thriving garden, love doesn’t thrive without thoughtfulness and intentional care.

When we lived in Sydney, Australia, I had an embarrassing experience resulting from careless watering. I’d planted several cherry tomato plants at the edge of our yard and looked forward to a crop of tasty red fruit. But I was working long hours and didn’t consider the dryness of Sydney summers. A month after planting them, they weren’t thriving. I pulled up a sad, puny plant and took it to a local garden center. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with this plant?” I asked the attendant. He looked at the plant with disgust and said, “Haven’t you ever watered it?” I don’t remember if I was wearing my favorite red t-shirt that day, but if I had been, my face would have matched it!

At the same time, our marriage was going through a dry spell. The disorientation of living in a foreign culture, separation from family and friends, and pressure at new jobs drew our attention from each other, and we began to run low on TLC. We each felt disconnected and increasingly lonely. Prayer and communication were important, but it was purposeful kindness and attention that restored the pleasure of love.  

So, beautiful, what is the first thing that needs your attention in the garden of your love?

Have hectic schedules broken down boundaries so that there’s little time or energy to enjoy your relationship? Are friends or family encroaching on the territory of your marriage?

What about the foundation of your love? Is the soil depleted? Do you need to evaluate, dig out some rocks or add some missing nutrients?

Are you getting enough light? Has busyness crowded out your time to bask in Jesus’ love? Or is the strident voice of our culture shading your mind, blocking what you need to grow, thrive, and nourish others?

Is your relationship watered by kindness and thoughtful care? I love the promise to us from Proverbs 11:25: A generous soul will prosper (thrive); whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Regardless of the current state of your love,  I pray that by applying these gardening principles your relationship will become a source of beauty and refreshing.”

Friends, have you been encouraged by the depth and grace Carolyn has shared with us today? What are some things you’ll try to accomplish this week to prosper in your marriage? If your single, what goal do you want to set for your future marriage? Maybe write it down on a sticky note or put a reminder in your phone. I’m believing your marriage or future has been invested in richly this month!

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If you are interested in following Carolyn you can find her and find her book “Five Hundred Letters” here on amazon.

Thanks for reading!

Best, Steph

P.S. Don’t miss next week when Trevin and I cover two things: (1) How to thrive as a single adult and (2) Hilarious things couples fight about, to wrap up this month before we jump into my discipleship series in March, which I am super excited about.