I am an avid gardener. I find few things more satisfying than spending a morning out in the yard cultivating, planting, and giving the weekly crop of new weeds a death sentence.

Spring, particularly after a harsh winter, presents a variety of challenges. This winter, although not excessively cold for long periods of time, damaged many flowers and trees due to the early warm spells interspersed with periodic cold snaps.

On the few warm weekends during March and April, I was able to get out and begin the laborious and less than enjoyable task of cleaning up leaves that the wind deposited in hard to reach places. In addition, I began to cut back shrubs that had bloomed in the late summer and early fall so that they could spring out gleefully when the weather turned warm.

In mid-April, my roses began to bud out providing a long anticipated announcement that Spring blossoms were due to arrive soon. However, upon closer inspection, I noticed that many of the rose bushes were only budding in the lower portion of the plant. Due to the vicissitudes of the winter and early spring temperatures, the upper part of most of the branches on the rose bushes were dead.

Thus began the long process of cutting back the dead stems to the point where new growth was sprouting. Even though I wore gloves, my skin was frequently pricked by thorns as I patiently cut each rose bush to just above the new growth.

I learn many lessons in the quiet peace of a Saturday morning in the garden. The exercise of pruning the rose bushes this Spring became a learning moment for me, one which I will share with you today.

The first thing I noticed was that the stems that had an abundance of thorns tended to be the ones that did not sprout new growth as the spring dawned. While perhaps not botanically correct, my theory is that stems that spent time growing thorns last summer did not save up enough energy to generate new growth – and ultimately blooms – this year. They spent all their effort on growing thorns, not preparing to bless the world around them with bountiful blooms.

Unfortunately, this observation also applies to the lives we lead. Instead of saving energy for the future, we overspend on the present. While in the short run we may feel satisfied, the long-term result of overdoing it is not good.

When a harsh winter season comes our way, we find it difficult to spring forth when the winter ends. The thorns of our life get in the way of moving beyond the past. As a result, we are unable to enjoy the spring and sprout new growth.

As I pruned the roses – carefully cutting back the dead thorn-filled stems – I reflected on the way the unproductive stems of my life had been pruned because of my heart surgery last fall.

The picture at the top of this article was taken on Mother’s Day. As you can see, the roses that I pruned in April now sport abundant green growth and vibrant new blooms. Hard to see in the photo is the plethora of buds that portend many more weeks of glorious blooms.

Life has its ups and downs. Great times are often followed by not so good or even bad times. The challenge is to store up some goodness from the great times to cushion the bad times. It is also critical to realize that the periodic pruning periods of our lives are essential to living successfully over the long term.

In a way, our lives are like rose bushes. The buds and blooms of Spring have their foundation in the new growth that sprouts optimistically from the pruning that occurs in the late winter and early spring. The vibrant green and beautiful blooms of the summer are our reward for surviving harsh winters and allowing our lives to be pruned.

As I finished pruning the roses in late April, I looked back on what remained. The scraggy thorn-filled brown stalks were gone. The nascent green foliage of the early spring growth hugged itself above brown mulch. The now small bundle of green provided a promise that winter was past, and that warmer weather would soon come.

Today, the bundle of green has sprouted forth, giving rise to fresh stems full of buds. These buds have already started to bloom fantastically while more buds are waiting for their turn to decorate the world around them. Soon the summer will be upon us, but it will be brightened by the endless display of blooms until fall and winter come again.

Pruning is essential to living a productive and enjoyable life. Without it, the excesses of our lives lead to a life full of thorns. And relatively few blooms.

When pruned regularly, new growth sprouts forth and new buds alight. The buds soon become vibrant blooms. And then our lives become full of life and beauty.
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