It was a joy to revisit the garden of the Old School House in Longworth, this time in early summer and we are grateful to Alison Hoblyn for once again opening her lovely home and garden. Seven people participated and came ready to have their hearts ‘gardened’ by their heavenly Father, the divine gardener.
The theme was introduced using a verse from Hebrews, “… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (12:1, NIV) and parallels were made between the rapid growth of both garden plants and weeds that share the same space during summer, and the things or situations which threaten to entangle us and prevent us from completing the call of God on our lives.
A time for quiet reflection then followed and people were encouraged to use the garden or indoor space where there was a display of gardening tools and a table for creativity. A suggested activity was to choose a gardening tool that best fitted how one perceived God might be wanting to ‘garden your heart’ – the heart could be seen as the ‘inner garden’ and it is here where God wants to dwell with us, restore us and enable us to become our true selves in Christ.
Many participants used the creativity table (stormy weather outside precluded sitting in the garden for too long!) and some wonderful pieces of artwork were produced as people engaged with God in different ways. The drawings and collages were shared during a gathering time before lunch and people expressed how they had been encouraged in their journeys.
One participant wrote:
I permitted myself to attend the day after jostling with putting aside my ‘to do’ list and found that it’s been a valuable stock-take of my life direction. Initially I felt tired, flat, and at a loss what to do with the time. But when the rain stopped, I walked outside for half an hour to look, listen, smell, touch flowers and pray. We’d all prayed at the start of the day for God to speak to each of us and He did. Everyone found some aspect of the garden theme ( My Father is the Gardener) to identify with.
My thoughts were a bit jumbled but I found a picture of a pot-bound chrysanthemum being replanted into the garden soil and some bible verses and passages from books left out for us. But it wasn’t until one of the other ladies expressed about ‘compacted roots’ that I began to see the connection in the words and pictures and my life in Gods capable hands.
I recognised that my life had been constricted by a tight schedule of nursing, juggling childcare and little energy or time for things I longed to do. But in the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to drop my nursing hours to a minimum. It’s taken two years to adjust my thinking and not feel guilty for working less, but I am now free of the plant pot and living in the garden, with more room to grow in other ways. I am now starting an art class, volunteering in nature conservation and have more time for my family. I’m grateful for this time and hope it will bear fruit spiritually. I’m going to try to keep that contact with God daily and read his word (I have also joined a new house group) to stay rooted.
Today’s parable garden session gave me clarity, hope and a sense of God’s love again and wonderful to share the day with the group.