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SGWS S1:E4- Garden Design: Preparing a Place

I’m sitting at a table that is open to the busy traffic street in downtown Richmond. It is one of those early spring days where the flowers are blooming all around and the beginning of the young green leaves are peeking out from the branches of some of the trees. The smell of the light spring rain lingers in the air as the sun now brightly shines off the old apartment windows reflecting the blue sky. I love the white brick building with the black trim. My sister lived in this area not too long ago, but some things have changed. I am taking in the new signs and I start noticing litttle green spaces. There are a few plant beds in the windows and even a little lettuce garden near a fire hydrant. Urban gardening being taken to new levels. Actually, it makes me smile. Someone is adding natural beauty to our city day. Every few minutes, a gust of wind twirls the residual leaves of last year on the cobblestone road. The beautiful drama unfolds in front of me as I sit and sip my Secret Garden tea (how fitting!) listening to some songs that help me focus. I am feeling grateful for this moment.

Just a half hour ago, I walked in an area I’ve never been and was a little fearful of the big gusts of wind and the loud traffic noise overwhelming my senses. You see, I planned to mail a package to a customer who ordered maps of my beloved city. I dropped my sister off for a meeting at the hospital and make my way over to an unfamiliar place. I find the post office and guess what? No parking. I drive around in my sister’s unfamiliar car in an unfamiliar place until I find a parking spot. And then there is an unfamiliar new-fangled way of paying with an app on my phone. I have to sit there and download it and figure out how to pay. After double checking the app, the system payment, the license plate, I finally load up my package and walk around the big city block. Traffic hour is really picking up. The wind is really blowing now. I don’t feel safe. Loud noises stress me out. I know it’s just fear of the unfamiliar. A group of younger adults gather together in front of me strolling slowly at best. I am stuck behind them on the sidewalk as we are blocked in by new city scooters. I find a way to break in front of them without feeling too rude and beeline it for the post office. I reach it. It has just closed. I missed it by four minutes. I turn around and the man loading packages turns away from me and continues loading up the truck. I don’t know if he saw me try to open the door, but I suspect he sees people getting there late often. Or at least I like to imagine I’m not the only one. I feel a little ashamed for not having checked the time. I thought there was a whole hour left until close. I turn around quickly to not sit in my own mistake, and then I face the group of people I have just passed. They graciously smile and make room for me to pass by. I look for a place to settle down and nothing is open. I walk back to my car. I still have 56 minutes left paid on my parking app. I should mention I drank a lot of coffee and water earlier and really need to use the restroom. Nothing is even hinting at being open for me. So,

I leave and drive to a semi-familiar place near where my sister lived one time when she was in school. A free parking space waits for me and I easily (yes in downtown Richmond) pull in. I don’t take this for granted. I’ve spent countless hours over the years finding parking in that area. I’m a little frazzled from my experience and maybe the general anxiety all around due to the Coronavirus frenzy. Plus we are anxious over a specific thing we are waiting to hear about soon. I realize I don’t have much time so I settle down in a coffee shop with a cup of tea and start writing these words.

I’m already feeling better acknowledging my feelings and sharing them with you.

I’ve been working on processing things and living in the moment. Well, here you go. Me sitting in the breeze sipping a cup of tea listening to relaxing music writing words as people pass me by on foot and in their cars. It’s the perfect temperature and I’m feeling true delight in this moment. My sister texts me to say she will walk to me because it’s not too far and she knows I’m all settled in.

I feel like a little fern that is uncurling in the comfort of a well suited and well watered spot in the shade.

Last year I moved to Richmond. I didn’t think I’d ever come back when I left after high school graduation, but God works in mysterious ways. As I have been preparing my home, I’ve thought often about God preparing a place for us.

Last year, I watched a lot of gardening shows hosted by Monty Don. It was good bonding time with my Mom as we were drawn into the beauty of gardening. I love his approach to invite anyone into the joy of gardening. He’s a big advocate for gardening for mental health and showing people that anyone can garden. Plus he’ll drop some deep nuggets of wisdom as he’s just walking through a garden. Just watch any of his shows. If you don’t fall in love with this suspender-wearing precious gardening Brit, well, it’s okay if you don’t, but seriously I love him. Recently, i saw somewhere he was referred to the Gandalf of gardening. That made me smile. Anyways, one of the things that was helpful to see was the amount of time it takes for a garden to grow.

At first, it’s important to have a plan. Most people didn’t make very good plans. He would help them tweak their designs and make sure they had a good plan before he left them to do the bulk of the work. A good plan would include a purpose, an aesthetic, and a path. Purpose?

What do you want your garden to be about? Will it be themed? Will it be mainly for food? Could it be a sensory garden or a learning garden? Do you want lots of color ? Is it a place for social gatherings or solitude? And every time he would help them create a path to lead them through the garden. Otherwise, it would not be properly enjoyed.

Aesthetically, are you more into the English Cottage Garden, the Italian hedges and structures, the French Potage garden (for preparing plants for eating in the kitchen), a smallholding, a Japanese tea garden, a tropical paradise, etc. Of course, you still have to follow the rule of right plant, right place, but having a theme helps you tie in together the Aesthetic you are looking for in your garden.

And then the path. Sometimes a gardener would have a path leading to nowhere in particular or forget the path altogether. Don’t worry, Monty would always set it right.

He would come back and check in on them to encourage and give a full day’s work into the process of the garden. The thing that surprised me was often how much work it was to prepare the plots. Sometimes, they would have to get heavy construction machinery in their little back yards (or back gardens as the British say) and clear out concrete or stones or piles of brush or trees. It’s serious work. Once the place is prepared, the rewarding work of growth can begin.

I think of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He had a plan. A perfect plan. It was serious work. Suffering and agony and surrender. He made a way so we all can have a place. He died and rose again to give us life and growth. Crushed to give us fullness. He is our Purpose and our Beauty and our Path.

And let me tell you what. After preparing a house and continually working on home projects, I can’t wait to find a place prepared for me with no more maintenance and no more unhappy surprises. I can’t wait to feel very welcomed to a feast by the one who fulfills every piece of my wanting heart.

Maybe we will sip tea together in the sweet breeze and delight in the world around us while He tells me all His secrets.


I do declare these words to you:

Luke 22:39-36

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.  And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed,  saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow,  and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

I pray that God will help us stay awake to His love. I pray that God will help us not enter into temptation. I pray that Jesus will be our full protection. I pray that we may be beautifully used up.

And here is my made-up word for you today:

USE-UPPANCE 1. noun. the concept of using up something, accompanied by a very wonderful accomplished feeling, "it is finished" ex: Look at this use-uppance, she declared as she poured out the rest of the orange juice into a small glass for her sister to drink, making room for the new groceries at just the right time.

                                                           2. verb. to practice use-uppance, ex: Watch me use-uppance this toothpaste! 

                                                           3. Remember that day that was very use-uppance-y? We finished the leftovers, cleared out the cabinets of ingredients, and took out all the Goodwill donations in one day!

You are so welcome. :) Enjoy that one popping up in your head when you finish your toothpaste tube or scrape that last bit of peanut butter out of the jar or finally use that last stamp from the sleeve of hot wheels stamps.



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