Confession time: I do not possess a green thumb.

I love plants but only when I don’t have to take care of them, which explains what I have so few in my home and in my yard. In my personal living spaces, I like low-maintenance greenery, bushes and plants that don’t need anything but watering and indoor plants that simply require the same. A walk through a beautiful garden engages most of my senses, but don’t ask me to create such a garden. It’s just not my thing.

The towering trees in the photo are just a few of the many trees my father planted in what was a barren rural yard back in the late 1950s. Today, that property that I have now inherited boasts many such trees, all lovingly planted and tended by my Daddy. Some of my earliest memories center around his planting trees, bushes, and flowers and lovingly caring for them. We had a pretty yard for the many years he took care of it.

Areas of our lives are like those trees and plants. They need attention and nurturing in order to grow and to thrive. 

What if you didn’t add yeast to a bread recipe that called for yeast? You’d get a loaf of rather flat bread. What if you didn’t put gas in your car (or charge it, if it’s an electric vehicle)? The car would eventually just stop running.

Nurturing and taking care of key areas of our lives are just as important as taking care of our cars and our recipes, and-let’s face-are actually MORE important than those two things (we can ride bikes or carpool or take public transportation to places AND we do not have to make bread!).

How sad that we so often fail to nurture the areas in our lives that depend on attention and “feeding” to grow and thrive.

When I was a college student, I had to invest my time in my studies in order to earn my degree. When I started teaching, I had to show up and be prepared to enlighten young minds on any given day; and when I became a mother, I nursed my babies to provide their initial nutrition, and I then had to spoon feed them until they could feed themselves.

If we want something to grow-be it our faith, our relationships, our minds, or any other area of our lives- we MUST nurture those areas; or else, they will simply chug along on autopilot and perhaps eventually die. I know from experience how such areas of life can dangle and die when not nurtured, and I’ll bet you do, too.

In order to keep these suggestions for growth and nurturing simple, I am providing four suggestions for nurturing under each of the five life areas listed below. Think of others, maybe some steps or acts you have tried that have really helped grow your business or relationship, and share them in the comments section so others may learn from them. Ultimately, we’re all doing this life together, so do feel free to chime in!

FAITH
*Schedule time each day for prayer, devotion, and/or meditation.
*Join a Bible study group or another type of fellowship group within or outside your church.
*Read a few of books each year that nurture your faith.
*Engage in corporate worship or community with others who practice your faith.

MIND
*Attend free lectures on topic that interest you.

*Brush up on your US history. There are several great and concise books that provide an overview of our nation’s history.
*Work crossword puzzles or acrostics, or buy one of those list books, and create lists from writing prompts.
*Visit museums of art, history, or science; and actually take time to read the didactic panels.

RELATIONSHIPS
*Tell your spouse or significant other (if you have one) everyday that you love him/her.
Even in the midst of temporary anger, express your love.
* If you are parents of school-age children, schedule regular date nights without the kids. Get a babysitter, and consider the payment an investment in your marriage. You don’t want to look at each other years down the road, when your nest is empty, and ask, “Who are you?”
* Pursue an interest or hobby together. I know couples who take yoga together or hike or create lovely gardens. Find a common interest that will bring you closer as you both enjoy and learn.
* If you are separated by distance for a short time, make every effort to have regularly scheduled FaceTime or Skype sessions, and ask to meet any new friends that come into your significant other’s life. Actually, your spouse or mate should want to introduce you; but if not, then ask. Long-distance relationships-even those that are for a brief period- need extra attention. The chasm that is created when two people are apart and do not nurture the relationship and grow together is often irreparable.

HEALTH
* Ditch the bad habits NOW: Using tobacco products, excessive alcohol use, indulging in fatty and sweet foods. Get professional help if you need it.
* Exercise! Find types of exercise that you love, and stick with a schedule. Exercise should be a “must do” activity, a part of your life.
* Drink water! Drinking at least eight glasses of water per day has so many benefits, including flushing toxins out of your body, aiding the digestion/elimination process, and providing the necessary hydration your body needs.
* Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is critical for optimal brain functioning, combatting stress, and being able to function at your best. Want better sleep? Make your room very dark, keep the temperature relatively cool, and create a bed that’s a pleasure to sleep in (think nice sheets and a good pillow… worthwhile investments!).

WORK

* Ask yourself and your peers and supervisors: How can I be my best at work?
* Identify your sources of job stress, and take action to eliminate those stressors. Consider a certain colleague a stressor? Remember that YOU control your attitude and feelings, so decide how YOU can have joy and purpose without allowing that person to put a damper on your day.
* Ask yourself: Does my work align with my values, and do I feel a sense of purpose? If your answer to one or both if these questions is “no,” then consider switching careers, and take the steps to do that. Life is too short to spend 40+ hours a week in something you don’t enjoy or about which you feel conflicted. Think out of the box, and be hopeful! Hire a coach, get a mentor, go back to school… do something to get you to where you want to be!
* Reward yourself for your hard work! Always set little “rewards” for having successfully accomplished certain tasks. The ideal job for any one of us is a job we feel called to do and are internally motivated to do it. If external factors work (money and rewards you give yourself), then that’s fine; but ultimately, your motivation should come from within.

Without daily attention and nurturing, the above areas of our lives will not grow, and they certainly won’t THRIVE. If they are important to us, we MUST give them the daily attention and “feeding” that is necessary for growth and positive experiences and results.

Don’t allow your relationships to fall apart. Don’t let yourself go (as so often happens with lax health habits). Don’t work to just survive.

NURTURE…GROW…GO!