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Spring is such a wonderful season. It is fun to look at the bushes, trees, the ground where the perennials are planted, and the lawn and see the changes beginning to emerge. The little buds pop out, signifying that more and bigger beauty will soon be here. The hills begin to change from brown to at first a hint of green with color deepening as each day passes. It is that wonderful feeling of newness and a rebirth.

What would it have been like to live in the Garden of Eden? Think of the full variety of vegetation producing anything you would want to eat in abundance and everything that is pleasing to the eyes. It is interesting that the scriptures tell us what the Lord expected of Adam and Eve while in the garden. “And I the Lord God, took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it.” (Moses 3:15.) It seems the Lord expected Adam and Eve to do some work in maintaining this beautiful place they were given.

We, too, are given a space on earth. It could be a room, an apartment, a trailer, a house, a tent, or any place we call home. No matter how humble the place is, what we make of it is our choice. For instance, a young man’s employment caused him to go to many houses to perform a service. He would go door to door, explain his purpose, and would be invited in. One neighborhood was a tract of modest brick houses with a porch attached to the side. After knocking on the front door, the owner appeared on the side porch and invited him in but said he needed to go to the back door because the front door was nailed shut. When he entered the dimly lit house, he was hit by the smell which reminded him of the monkey house at the zoo before air conditioning. There were piles of “stuff” everywhere and the hardwood floors were blackened except where they walked. The people were unkempt and uncooperative.

In another neighborhood of similarly modest homes, he approached a house that had been added on to as shown by different materials used. After being invited in, he noticed the floors were not quite level under the linoleum, and the furniture appeared to be well used. The home was brightly lit and wonderfully clean and neat. The family members were well groomed, happy, and cooperative. What a contrast.

Springtime Counsel from President Kimball.

President Spencer W. Kimball said to us in a general conference address:

“Man is the keeper of the land, and not its possessor.” The Lord said: The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.’ (Ps. 24:1.)……Therefore, we urge each of you to dress and keep in a beautiful state the property that is in your hands.” (October 1974 Conf, God Will Not be Mocked)

Two years later he counseled:

“Keep in good repair and beautify your homes, your yards, farms, and businesses. Repair the fences. Clean up and paint where needed. Keep your lawns and your gardens well-groomed. Whatever your circumstance, let your premises reflect orderliness, beauty, and happiness. Plan well and carry out your plan in an orderly and systematic manner.”(April 1976 Conf, Family Preparedness)

 A few days ago, with this counsel in our minds, my wife and I headed to our yard to survey our “Garden of Eden”. We looked closely and could see the little sprouts emerging and buds on our bushes. It was exciting and fun to see. The grass was beginning to turn green. With this impetus, I applied the first fertilizer and pre-emergent, all the time visualizing a lush green lawn.

A few days later, we again went out to see the progress. As we looked closer at the garden and yard, another scripture came to mind:

” …cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.  By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” (Moses 3:23-25)

To our surprise, small weeds had already started to grow and a quick glance at the lawn revealed, to our dismay, dandelions showing their tell-tale blooms. I love gardening just like I like I love a root canal. This is a replay of each year for as long as memory goes. Last year my gardening prowess said to me, oh, I can get to this later. Then the spring rains came and other needs closed in. I would glance out my bedroom window just above the garden and see the weeds maturing and thought, later. Well, as we all know, weeds grow twice as fast as desirable plants and that is just what happened in our garden. The battle was a losing battle because the weeds got well entrenched. My wife enjoys gardening but physical problems now keep her from doing it. The mantle has fallen on me.

This year, maybe if I get the weeds while they are small and tender, we might have a chance to change the course of last year. Along with watering, fertilizing, cultivating, and continual attention to the weeds we can have a beautiful garden that will bring great pleasure and happiness.

Looking back in time, the picture comes to mind of when we first tilled up our garden area, raked the beautiful soil smooth, bought plants, set them in place all with vision of a gorgeous lush “Garden of Eden”. The intention has always been there, but the pressure of other needs and desires took over, Then came “cursed shall be the ground for thy sake ……Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth” because we neglected to change it “By the sweat of thy [our] face.”

Marriages are Just Like Gardens

Looking back to the beginning of our marriage we remember how quickly our courtship happened. After the first few dates we decided we didn’t want to be apart. Each day found us hand-in-hand whenever possible. We talked glowingly of our future as husband and wife, having children, owning a home, seeing places together – you know all the things young couples share as dreams. Seven months later, we were married in the Salt Lake Temple setting off to our newly plowed and raked smooth garden. We planted the plants of work, school, play, church, intimacy, and a multitude of other desires that would lead to our personal growth. We then set out to water and fertilize these plants with liberal amounts of love, kindness, gentleness, respect and prayer.  We went forth to “dress and keep it.”

Then life happened. You already knew this was coming. Jobs were hard to find and didn’t pay much; school was difficult and time consuming; we had differing opinions, desires, and needs; church callings came; and we now had regular bills to pay (rent, utilities, food, and gas) that we didn’t have to worry about before.

We had dreamed about the time we could be together all the time and that was wonderful and challenging.

Our smooth garden began to get a little bumpy. Bumpy is one thing, but weeds, well, they have a way of changing the character of the garden. When you are young and attempting to learn how to get along, one often does dumb little things. For instance, during our first year of marriage I was in my junior year of college and studying was a challenge. Our first little apartment had hardwood floors.

One evening, as I was studying, Joy was going about taking care of our apartment walking from one area to another. All of the sudden I said, “I am trying to study and all I can hear is the clump-clump-clump of your shoes on the floor. Could you be quiet.” She apologized and put on her slippers and continued her duties. (I am embarrassed to tell the next part of the story.) After a short time I again exclaimed, “I can’t concentrate because all I hear is the swish-swish-swish of your slippers. Could you please be quiet?” With a hurt expression on her face, she again apologized and went to bed. Wow, weeds pop up fast. Realizing how I had hurt Joy by my selfish and rude comments, I went into the bedroom asked for her forgiveness. She has been kind and patient as I have learned to be a husband and companion.

Growth for Our Marriage

The original intentions are the plan for growth. They are the nourishment that helps us flourish individually and as a couple. As we look back through our 58 years of marriage, we grew closer, accomplished more, found greater strength to meet the heavy challenges that faced us, explored new horizons both personally and as a couple, and served others when we remembered to keep applying love, kindness, gentleness, respect and prayer.

Challenges come when you least expect them. After graduation, we set off on our new exciting adventure in the United States Air Force and pilot training. Almost immediately the first of many unexpected bumps hit. It was determined that I had to have an operation in order to fly. Four out of five doctors said “no sweat” operation, the fifth doctor said not so because the healing process was difficult. He was right. After the incision broke open and had to be left open to heal from the inside out, I watched from the hospital bed as my flight class departed without me. It was the strength of Joy being beside me for long visits daily that gave me the fortitude to talk my way into departing with the next class, even with an open incision and my wife being my untrained, but willing, nurse.

Because of the recovery requirements, I missed about one third of the academic classes and all of the physical training. Joy was not only my nurse, she quizzed me on flight procedures and academics and cheered me on when I had to pass the same physical tests as the other student pilots at the end of training. With a lot of prayer, we made it.

The next big bump came from out of the blue. We both wanted to have children and after four years of no success it happened – we were pregnant. After a couple of months, all indications were not good. They didn’t have ultrasound in those days so we didn’t know what was happening. Joy was suddenly hit with horrible pain and after carrying her into the hospital, it was determined she needed emergency surgery to save her life. The doctors found she had a tubal pregnancy and it burst and she was bleeding to death internally. Because of other complications, the end result was she would not be able to give birth, ever. Together we cried and comforted each other and set our path to adopt children. And we did, five of them during the next ten years.

When the Garden Expands

When we bring children into our home, it becomes important to note that they will be observing our joint gardening efforts. These teachings continue for generations. At one point, we looked at each with great surprise when we heard one of our children, now grown and married with children, repeat our exact words when dealing with her family. Each time we have experienced this with some of our other children, it brings home the hope that some good will bear fruit and that not too many of our mistakes will go forward.

Just like tips in gardening, treatment and attitudes toward spouses are picked up in the home. The children very carefully watch what is done, as well as what is said. When spouses criticize or belittle each other there will be disastrous results. For example, upon flagging down a woman we knew as she was heading out of town with the car fully loaded with the children and household goods, pulling a trailer, she said. “I can no longer stand being the brunt of his jokes in public and belittled at home. I’m finished.”

Sadly, another man stated after his divorce, “I was never good enough for her or her father. If I did this, I should have done that, or if I did that I should have known to do this. I finally just gave up.” When mates disrespect their spouses and allow others to do the same, it not only ruins their marriage, but it gives a poor example to their posterity.

On another occasion, two grown children were overheard talking about what one had observed while visiting a neighbor’s home. They said the children were very disrespectful to the mother with the father present. One said, “We could never do that in our home.” The other remarked, “The time I got in the most trouble was when I was disrespectful to my mother.” The other agreed, and both were grateful their father had insisted that they show respect to their mother.

Attitudes and treatment begin little at a time, and that goes for both good and bad. A smile, a kind word, a hug, a gentle touch, a hand shake, words of endearment, the use of the words “please” and “thank you” (you know the words we were taught in primary), respect of the other’s opinion, all of which are little acts. On the other hand comes demeaning comments, criticism, words of disgust, looks of disgust, rough touches – all of which are also little acts.

Couples can make changes that will bless their marriage and their family. It may take practice, but it can happen. This brings to mind the statement attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but our power to do has increased.” Remember, you will choose what you will concentrate on. Whichever you choose to do, will grow and become easier.

Springtime: A good time to look at your marriage

Take a good look at your marriage and see if unwanted weeds have crept in and started to put down deep roots. Ask yourself if you are doing the things to build a strong relationship. Springtime is a romantic time, a time to rekindle the deep love that helps you face whatever may come. Someone once said that “a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”

I told Joy I wanted a love song to be able to sing to her. So she wrote one and Janice Kapp Perry put it to music. It expresses the deep feelings and experiences of our marriage. The song is entitled In Love All Over Again. Read the lyrics as you listen to it and see what you feel.

[Stream mp3 file: “In Love All Over Again”]

On days when life seems much too hard
And I can hardly bear
The difficulties I must face,
That’s when you are there.

You touch my cheek so lovingly
And soothe my troubled mind.
You hold me close, and magic’ly
I start to feel just fine.

            And I fall in love all over again
            With you, my sweetheart, my every day friend,
            And the world seems much brighter,
            My burdens are lighter,
            My happiness fills to the brim,
            I’m in love all over again.

Some times when I am watching you
And you are not aware,
My heart is filled with mem’ries
Of the good times we have shared.

And in my mind I see again
The little gifts you gave;
The times we laughed and danced and played,
The times we knelt and prayed.

            (Repeat Chorus)

I’ve watched you when you’re tired from work
Play games of peek-a-boo,
And read to our dear little ones
All snuggled close to you.

Then side by side we do our best
To meet their nightly needs.
And when they’re tucked into the beds
You give your heart to me.

            (Repeat Chorus)

Additional Helps for Your Marriage Garden

For many years we have written books, articles, presented firesides, and held marriage retreats primarily centered on helping strengthen and preserve marriages. In addition, I have been a marriage and family therapist for many years. We pulled together from our own experiences, clinical experiences, and from many kind people who have shared their lives with us, and wrote a book entitled Love That Lasts, Fourteen secrets to a more joyful, passionate, and fulfilling marriage. Last year we wrote an article for Meridian Magazine that covers four of the secrets and here is the link to that article. See if there are some suggestions that might help your marriage.

The time will come when we will have to report to the Master Gardener on how we took care of our “Garden of Eden” plot and how our harvest turned out. Look for the little things that need to be changed so your report will reflect His love.

[For information on books, articles, and music by Gary and Joy Lundberg visit www.garyjoylundberg.com/]