RGA | Four Gardens
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Four Gardens

The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.  – Isaiah 58:11

Garden 1 – My Plans, Hopes, and Desires

The year was 2011.  Eric and I had three beautiful children:  Seth was 6, Hannah was 5, and Abigail was 2.  Life was nowhere close to perfect, but it was rich with goodness.  We were in the process of beginning our second year of homeschooling the older two kids when we found out our family was going to grow!  I was pregnant and we were thrilled.  This was our plan and what we desired.  We were on track and moving right along.  Because we already had two girls, we dreamed of having another little boy, so, naturally, we were elated when we discovered this little baby was indeed a boy!  William David Oakley was scheduled to make his entrance into our lives the following April.  Life was in full swing, and we were hard at work carrying out our plans.

Part of our plans included planting a little garden with the kids as a science project.  We would germinate the seeds, get the spot ready, and eventually plant in the spring of the following year.  Along with the rest of my life, I had this little garden all planned out.  It would be a small raised bed in our tiny back yard where each child could plant their own fruit or vegetable then water, nurture, and watch it grow.

Have you ever felt derailed in life?  Like you’re on a fast moving train on the way to a destination, and all of a sudden there is a crash and the train is jolted to a halt and thrown from its course?  That’s what happened to us on December 2, 2011.  What was planned to be a routine check-up turned into that halting moment for our family, for our plans, our hopes, and our desires.  Our son was stillborn. That’s how we met William David.  Everything stopped.  Everything changed.  And, then, like we had kissed all of our new babies in the delivery room, we kissed him too. Even though he was lifeless, we still spoke to him like we spoke to the others.

Sweet boy, even though we won’t raise you, we are still proud we got to know you and to see your beautiful face.  We will see you again, sweet baby, we will see you again.

We left the hospital the next day empty handed and with a void in our lives that would forever be felt.  Our plans, hopes, and desires were gone.  We felt dead.  We were left facing the aftermath of the wreckage.  The domino effect was undoing.  Instead of the New Year bringing a new life, we now visited a cemetery.  Day to day life was crippling.  We tried to do “the right things” and were cautiously excited when we found out we were pregnant again only to be brought right back to a place of loss after suffering an early miscarriage.  There was no way out of this season of loss and grief but to walk through it.  We began to surrender and settle in to the fact that we were not derailed; this was our story.

Part of our surrendering to the season we were in was realizing that our “plans” had to be altered, changed, and released.  We made the decision to enroll the kids in our local public school, Enota Elementary.  I needed to heal and rest, and this was the direction God pointed us.  There was no baby and definitely no garden.  I could barely keep our clothes and house clean, much less take on a new project.  Nothing about this felt good, but there was an underlying peace Jesus gave that held the whole season delicately together.

I could not sleep the night before we were to tour the new school.  I made a really poor decision to scroll through Facebook.  This is never a good idea when you are depressed.  What I saw on my feed…  A fellow homeschool acquaintance posted her FOUR children “prepping” their garden for spring planting!  It was like a cruel joke.  I did not want her garden or her fourth child, but it was a blatant reminder of what I did not have.  Garden 1 was the garden of surrender.  It was letting go of our hopes and dreams and letting God cultivate His own beautiful story in our lives.  My friend’s garden was neither my problem nor the source of my pain.  This is when I learned to let Jesus gently turn my face to His, not to the left, not to the right.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.  Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.  Do not turn to the right or the left…”  Proverbs 4:25-27

Garden 2 – His Plans and a Different Garden

The next day, we toured and explored the hallways of our children’s new school.  It was a surreal moment in which I found myself grateful and petrified of the unknown.  But, it was a new day and we were moving.  As the tour came to an end, nothing could have prepared me for the last stop the sweet principal had for us.

“Mr. and Mrs. Oakley, what makes our school unique from all of the other schools in the city is our garden.  We plant fruits and vegetables and the kids can watch them grow, taste test them in Science, etc…  We even have our own water cistern!”

And there it was in front of us, a garden.  I could have sobbed at the principal’s feet right then and there, but somehow I maintained my composure (I at least needed to pretend I was somewhat “normal”).  The truth:  We were not derailed at all.  We were right on time.  He had created this moment for us long ago.

“…for such a time as this…”  Esther 4:14

This was not the garden I chose.  When I looked in the mirror, this was not the woman I recognized, yet God was just as alive at that public school as He was around my kitchen table.  He had a garden for my family indeed, and for the next three years that is the garden He watered and grew, and it was during this season that He graciously added a little girl to our family: Esther Rae.

The Enota Garden

Garden 3 – “I make all things new”

Three years later, God gave us the opportunity to homeschool again through a program called Classical Conversations.  Skeptically excited to embark on a new adventure, I inquired about the science curriculum.

“We will study botany this year,”  The Program Director replied.

Thinking nothing of it, we threw ourselves into the school year and low and behold, the project “suggested” was to germinate your own seeds and then plant a little garden.

And so we planted again.  This garden was in our own backyard.  I cried off and on all day in between cleaning up messes as we all worked hard planting our little garden.  Through tears of gratitude, I watched my family put their plants in the ground.  And oh how it grew!

Our Garden

The little boy I had planned for was not standing around that garden. That is the reality, and that will never change.  But there was a little blue-eyed little girl holding her watering can.  And in that moment I realized, there was always a garden.  It was simply His, not mine.

Esther Rae

My temptation today is still to compare my “garden” to others.  One month after we planted a garden a friend of mine sent me a picture of her garden that was ten times bigger than mine!  Do I aspire to have a “garden” like that?  Everything in me wants to, but then there is that gentle touch that guides my gaze back into His eyes.

Oh, the perfect will of God.  Nothing in my life is perfect.  Classical Conversations, public school, private school, my garden…  But I have been invited to a table, a feast!  I bring my mess and Jesus brings the “perfect”.  If He is at my table each day, then I get to dine in His perfect will.

Garden 4 – Gethsemane

In the fall of 2016, I visited another garden.  This garden was across the ocean in a foreign land:  The Garden of Gethsemane.  I stood there looking at the place where a man named Jesus stood some 2,000 years ago in agony, grief, and despair at the cost of what was before Him, the cross.  In that garden He asked for another way other than through it, but there was no other way.  He knew one day in 2011 Sarah Oakley would be in her own garden and He chose to give His life away so that my garden of death could be swallowed by the garden of His eternal life.

Oh, how it sounds too good to be true!  It simply is.

The Garden of Gethsemane

The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.  – Isaiah 58:11

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