This guest post is from the one and only Mama Garrett. What can I even say to describe her? She always makes me laugh, gives me constant guidance, and encourages me when I give up on myself. She is the most talented teacher in the world, no contest. She is also an insanely amazing singer, gardener (despite what she might say about herself), pianist, wife, and of course, Mom. I hope you soak up these words of wisdom – her knack for finding spiritual analogies in the everyday of life is an absolute blessing.
Over 14 years ago our family made a move from Portland, Oregon to a smaller city about three hours east – Bend. If you know anything about Oregon you know that Portland is considered “the Valley” and once you cross the mountains you find yourself in the drier part of the state referred to as Central Oregon, or the “High Desert.” The Valley is lush, green (yes, and rainy) full of vegetation and life! Deserts…well, they are dry, brown, sparse… and for me this picture describes well the ensuing spiritual journey. It didn’t take long for me to realize just how very difficult this transition was going to be. I quickly claimed Isaiah 58:11, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land” called Bend, Oregon.
I love flowers, and color, and gardens… I’m not really a gardener, wish I was, but I have learned many spiritual lessons from my attempts to garden here in the “High Desert.”
First lesson, seeds are planted in the deep darkness of the soil. Sometimes the soil is dry and rocky, and one questions if a plant can even survive this place. The darkness can feel lonely and isolated. Scribbled in fading pencil, sitting next to Psalm 37 I wrote “Help me trust your heart even when I can’t see your hand.” March, 2001. During my time in the deep dark soil, I discovered that a new Bend elementary school was slated to open in 2004. I can’t explain the feeling except to call it a glimpse of hope. The little seed begins to swell, feeding on this hope.
Lesson two: seeds need water and nourishment to grow. As a seed begins to grow into a plant, a root system develops. These roots supply nourishment and enable the growth of the plant. They will ultimately determine the influence of this plant. I am thankful that circumstances drove me to seek a deeper knowledge of the Word for instruction, nourishment, and encouragement for my weary soul.
And water…Scripture calls us to ‘Come to the waters, for Jesus is the Living Water.’ Living in a dry desert climate has given me a greater appreciation for water. I can say with the Psalmist, “My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) And “Just as the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God.” (Psalm 42:1-2.) This same visceral longing for God led me to still waters. Hallelujah! He provides streams in the desert ~ Drink!
During this time of growing, I entered a Masters of Teaching program. (Side note – this was a miracle: first cohort program ever in Central Oregon, pretty sure God planned it just for me!)
Lesson Three: Pruning is necessary for growth (John 15,) pulling weeds and digging up bitter roots (Hebrews 12:15) keeps the plant pure and healthy. This is hard work and not comfortable. It would be great if obeying and following God meant life was smooth and easy, but we know that in this life we will have trials and suffering. My journey was full of discouragement, fears, failures (weeds) as well as bad attitudes, self-pity, discontentment, envy (bitter roots.) Yet Romans 5 tells us to ‘rejoice in our sufferings (trials and training) because we know it produces perseverance and patience, which produces character, and the end result is hope. And hope does not disappoint.’ Say that again, Hope does not disappoint!
At one point along my journey someone said to me, “You think you are going to get a teaching job with Bend LaPine? Don’t you know that there are over 500 applicants for every single job?” Answer: well, I really didn’t know that fun fact. Truthfully, I know that God kept that from me. Fast forward the tape, I did get a job at Ensworth Elementary School, the very school I had read about well over a decade ago. And I know wholeheartedly that it was God, it was all Him. Ephesians 2:10 sums it up best. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He is the Master Gardener, not me. This plant eventually did bloom, where He planted it, and for reasons He had planned before the beginning of time!
Footnote: The plant, now being fully alive, has the opportunity to bring beauty, shade, fruit etc. to the world around it. How am I blessing those in my sphere of influence? The plant will receive sunshine (encouragement) as well as storms, rain, and wind (trials.) How am I standing? My hope and constant prayer is that I am firmly planted just like Paul describes in Colossians 2:6-7, “that you continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”