Column | Transformation of an overgrown, forgotten garden is a symbol of renewal and hope

When I opened my eyes one morning last weekend, these words from scripture came to mind:

“Behold, I make all things new,” Revelation 21:5.

God knows that early morning is the best time to get my attention, so I frequently wake up with these inspirations that help set the tone for my day. It’s a lot better than waking up with anxious thoughts and chaotic worries floating into my head. I am grateful for the inspiration.

Those words were present in my thoughts when I sat down to pray and journal that morning and as I took in the sights, scents and sounds of the early summer morning. 

God speaks to me in words of inspiration like this and in nature. On this day, the two combined in beautiful synchronicity. My garden is in full bloom now; the star gazer lilies are spectacular in appearance and scent. I believe the scent of those lilies is indeed the scent of heaven. 

My garden is itself a testimony of something old being made new. When we moved here in 2018, the property was overrun with weeds, locust trees and snakes and rodents — so much so that we could barely see a back yard. 

We literally stumbled into the rocks that surrounded an elaborate garden and pond. What I imagine was once a beautiful garden was then overgrown and dead after years of neglect. 

We’ve worked hard uncovering the beauty that lay beneath and now, four years later, the garden is renewed in splendor.

I’m a pretty frugal gardener, often waiting for perennials to go on clearance to add to my garden each season. A seemingly dead plant will come back to life with a little water and attention. 

This once overgrown property is the land that keeps on giving as we nurture it to uncover its natural beauty. 

The birds, butterflies, hummingbirds and dragonflies all feed off the garden’s rebirth. And now, since we’ve been creating a sanctuary for the bees, these winged pollinators have also made a resurgence in our little backyard habitat. 

The metamorphosis of many different types of butterflies adds motion and beauty to the garden. These winged creatures also seem to whisper in flight; “Behold all things are made new.” 

In keeping with this theme of renewal, my husband and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary earlier this week. It’s been a long ride and many times uphill. 

As I was searching for the perfect card to give my husband, I couldn’t stop laughing thinking of some conversations I’ve had with a dear friend of mine who is also in a seasoned marriage for over 30 years. They too have experienced plenty of uphill battles and like us, are still working on their marriage, side by side. 

My friend and I decided that one day we would start our own “reality greeting card company” —one that includes greetings that reflect that true ups and downs of life while still affirming all that is good in a relationship. She proposed a humorous line of cards for what she called “the un-anniversaries” that mark the milestones while still acknowledging that relationships can be less than perfect and still survive. 

I’m thinking of creating cards that include goat and chicken humor — kind of in the same vein of the t-shirt Jo and I gave my husband for Father’s Day. It reads, “I love my kids” in bold letters surrounded by images of goats!  I joke with my husband and our friends to say that goats and chickens saved our marriage — kidding aside. 

Interestingly, the wedding band I wear now was the one worn by my maternal grandmother. The wedding date inscription inside the band reads “November 24, 1919.” I thought it was cool 10 years ago when my Mom gave me her rings. But now it means even more.

My maternal grandparents committed their lives to each other after surviving a world-wide influenza pandemic. I often wondered now what their courtship looked like and the challenges they had getting to know one another in the midst of a pandemic and World War I.

While this COVID pandemic challenged many marriages, it furthered our resolve to keep moving forward with a common goal of providing for our family in tumultuous times. The commitment my grandparents made, and later my parents made during WWII, mean even more to me today. 

I found the perfect anniversary card to mark these 36 years of marriage. It’s a cute cutout of bees and it said’ “We bee long together.” I guess we can add beekeeping to our list of strategies that enrich marriages to thrive in the days ahead. 

The morning I was reminded that God makes all things new we were hosting a pallet painting project on Jo’s Farm, a cooperative effort of the Hallockville Bee Keepers and our own non-profit, Johanna’s Hope.

It was a beautiful day of people coming together for art and a common cause, creating a beautiful fence for the bee yard at Hallockville Museum Farm. There were people of varied abilities and the painting continued even into this week. 

Though some of the pallets were broken, they still looked beautiful when decorated with art. Some of the flowers and stars and bees are perfect and some, like the ones my daughter painted, were painted with an unsteady hand. But all of these creations came to together in a labor of love to form a thing of beauty. 

One special visitor came: a stranger that my husband and I and Jo have just gotten to know. She’s an international art student at NYU who answered a call from one of Johanna’s medical providers to assist us on the creation of artwork for the nonprofit. While we had met on Zoom and communicated via email, this young woman, hopped a train to take part in our pallet painting party and to meet Jo and her farm in person! 

Her presence was in itself a gift and her artwork added a touch of beauty to our community of painters. But what touched me deeply was a canvas of original that she gave me. It was a painting of the profile of a woman’s face, with a butterfly lighting on her nose. 

I was deeply touched by the beauty of this gift and especially as the morning’s inspiration came to mind: “Behold, I make all things new.”


God can take all the brokenness in all our lives — the weed-ridden gardens, our tired bodies and commitments — and still make all things new.

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