Like my total amazement after being away for a week with great-granddaughter’s running-fast skills, I was totally dismayed to discover that our humongous clematis vine was covered with powdery mildew fungus looking brownish as it hung limply over the trellis rather than looking healthy and full of buds for the upcoming August magnificent blooming season. Little bugs were also feasting on the delicate leaves. The plant’s needs immediately advanced to top priority. I was relieved to find a full bottle of fungal flower spray in Jim’s garden supplies. As I carefully trimmed away some dead vines and followed directions for safe and sufficient spraying, I was encouraged to see some tender green new growth underneath all the ugly stuff. Hopefully, spraying will protect the new growth.
My reflection on how quickly the unwelcome problem had assumed my immediate dedication, intuitively paralleled the similarity of unexpected changes and events throwing curves in the lives of all of us. Uncomfortable changes occur whether it’s a divorce, drop-in company, car trouble, a broken water pipe, physical limitations, a new baby, an empty nest, an accident, a different job, loss of a loved one, adjusting to retirement or a forced 180 in moving to a different home or facility. Personal pruning most often involves tossing old stuff that’s no longer useful and/or parting with age-related independence, freedom and ability in performing favorite activities.
The time is just around the corner when many of us will have to relinquish independence in making decisions and doing almost everything on our own. Another type of pruning is evidenced when seniors wisely relinquish vehicle keys which is preferable to waiting until the children call a special family meeting. I’ve heard grim tales from adult children. “Dad just won’t give up his keys.” “Mom says she’s going to drive until the cows come home.” The children, of course, want to protect their parents as well as others on the road. That calls for protective (ouch) pruning.
Some elective protective pruning needs are forever, such as daughter Kay in donating a kidney to her step daughter, Jenny, requires a mandatory 80 ounces of drinking water daily that each needs for kidney health. Other health problems require forever restricted diets. Heart issues carry ‘not too cold’ or ‘too hot’ and lifting restrictions.
Another pruning procedure is having to take precautions not to fall. This applies to everyone! I no longer run barefooted up and down the basement stairs to our washer, dryer, pantry and copier. If I don’t answer the phone my kids are likely to imagine I’m at the bottom of the stairs, so I assure them I will wear shoes, limit the amount of what I carry down or bring up, and try to limit trips. One fall would necessitate doing a 180.
Do you get upset about your ‘mildew’ limitations on bending, stooping, twisting or getting on your knees or floor? One good-natured gal declared “I can get down but it takes a crane to get me up.” Are you irritated that you can no longer play sports; get frustrated when you’ve misplaced something; can’t’ open jars? All that is normal.
Being gentle with ourselves--and others--is the best attitude to have as we endure the essential protective pruning of our lifestyle. Re-name it a baffling situation if that helps. The pruning experience actually provides information about how to wisely handle limitations and/or heal. Let gentleness be our trade mark as the scripture verse says, Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Phil. 4:5.
We count on heathy new growth to produce the blossoms of continued purpose. Embracing and patiently enduring protective pruning enables us to thrive in a smaller way, perhaps, but with the same outcome of purpose and independence—two very important goals. Independence may be lessened but doing as much as possible contributes to ability to thrive, well-being and overall happiness. Changes do take on a different hew but holding fast to maintaining purposes in a lesser form and doing a little bit of everything will generate sources of joy. An achievable goal is to do much as we can for as long as we can.
Seniors are not the only ones needing protective pruning as many younger people also struggle with health problems and other unexpected changes that limit what they are able to do and where they can go. Many cannot walk long distances to attend sports, concerts, etc.
The stages in life vary from being single and independent to parenting then to an empty nest again. And some add that the house fills up with grandchildren. Then, looking ahead to retirement and what we’ll be able to do. The day arrives when you live alone in a big house, apartment or with family and very cognizant that eventually, we may need to do a 180.
The likelihood of necessary personal protective pruning accompanies all of us throughout every phase of life. The good news is that every change offers new growth in understanding and making allowances for filling in the gaps. I trust that embracing protective pruning stemming from your own decisions, from your children, friends or doctors will allow you to thrive with exciting new growth and confidence in brand new areas. I write what I need to read.
1-2 I am the true fine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful. 9.As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15 (NIV)
And from the Apostle Paul: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NIV)
Father, help us to gracefully endure losses and changes, and to find comfort and confidence in Your presence and wisdom during personal protective pruning no matter where we are.