Yesterday, in a rare crisp, cool morning in an otherwise hot and humid August, I felt a surge of energy after dropping the kids off at school. What to do with my newfound (kid-free) freedom on such a morning? Tackle my overgrown flower bed, of course!

You see, we have gotten the homeowner letter advising us that our fallen shutter was in need of “immediate attention”, and if not taken care of, “legal action” could be taken. We’ve gotten the “your lawn was observed in need of attention on July 5th at 4:30” letter. And I knew any day now, a letter would arrive describing how our weed infested garden was pulling down the property value of all the homes in our entire neighborhood.

So with the cool air stirring in me a fresh energy, I got to work. Many of the weeds were very well established. Try as I might, with most every weed I pulled, the leaf alone would snap off in my hand, leaving the root perfectly in tact. I changed my tactic, loosening the soil first, and pulling the weed from as for down on the root as I could reach, but still, the roots were so thick and so deep down, they were consistently beating me at our tug-of-war.

“Ugh!” I thought. “I’m not pulling the weeds, I’m pruning them!”

We all know what pruning does. It strengthens the plant, making it more beautiful and more productive than ever before. It’s how we tend to, and care for, the plants we want most to grow and flourish.

So what am I pruning in my life? Do I even recognize what needs to be completely pulled out, and what needs to be carefully pruned? There are definitely times I’ve pulled something that I later learn was a beautiful plant. Similarly, one time I let one straight, long “sunflower” grow until it was taller than the first level of our house. I waited eagerly for the golden flower to emerge, and it never did. I laugh now at how tall that thing grew, under my watchful, caring eye.

What needs to go, and what needs to be nurtured? How sad to get to the end of my life only to realize what I’d been nurturing all those years was nothing but a weed. Tall. Sturdy. 1 1/2 stories high. But, a weed. A weed that choked out what could have become something truly beautiful.