Owning our Health: Finding Freedom Through Gardening



There are benefits from tending a garden and here in Southern California one can cultivate a garden all year long. My colleague Anna Bowness-Park is a regular contributor to the Times Vancouver Sun and writes of one woman’s return to health through her love of gardening.

Gardens can teach us many lessons about ourselves, but there is a visionary quality to being a gardener that when developed can bring unexpected health benefits for both the land and ourselves.

Shelley Sparks is author of Secrets of the Land, Designing Harmonious Gardens with Feng Shui. In a recent article in Next Avenueshe shared a powerful story about a woman who, after suffering two strokes, was seriously disabled and in a wheelchair. Yet, when Sparks met her some time later she was fully mobile. She asked the woman how this happened.

“She told me that her first stroke had paralyzed her and left her unable to walk. One day she was looking out her window, and noticed the empty lot next to her home, an unsightly mess, overgrown with weeds, parched soil and debris. That’s when it hit her: By rehabilitating that plot of land she might be able to rehabilitate herself. She crawled over to the lot every day on her hands and knees and slowly started pulling weeds and bagging debris. At first she needed help from her grandchildren, but she struggled valiantly for two years to clear the lot, and slowly but surely they both improved. Her doctors were in shock as they watched her return to full mobility.

This woman saw the potential for restoration to wholeness not only for the plot of land, but also for herself. In like manner, we don’t have to accept that things are hopeless and unchangeable, whether it is with our health or any other aspect of our lives. We can look deeper.

Read Anna’s complete article as first published in the Vancouver Sun

About the author

Guest We are pleased to present Notes from the Field authors, who are assistant committees and church members in the Southern California region; and Notes from The Mother Church authors, who are Committees from the United States and around the world, as well as the Federal Committee on Publication office.


  1. Evelyn Brookins says

    This is not the first restoration from the seemingly devastating effects of strokes. What is it that enables someone to regain full ability when the human body appears to be partially lifeless? Might it not be because the individual is turning thought and effort to tasks beyond self and limitation? This is a precious story of self-forgetfulness – un-selfed love.

  2. belle says

    Thought redirected from one’s own problems to more universal needs does serve to, in the end, help one’s self as well!!

  3. Mary Lou MacKenzie says

    This story brings hope for everyone experiencing any kind of difficult situation. Thanks so much.

  4. says

    What an inspiring story and example for us all. Giving of ourselves is certainly a healthy way to live and brings freedom and restoration to those willing to give in spite of any personal difficulty. Thanks for sharing this Don.

  5. Wendy Rose says

    This story is so uplifting and another example of how serving others with undaunted love and joy turns into physical freedom and renewal. Working at removing weeds from a garden is the outward expression of removing the weeds of discouragement, inactivity, and unfairness from one’s inner thoughts. The body corresponds to thoughts of beauty with beauty. Thanks for sharing this lovely story.

  6. Barbara says

    Sometimes we simply must turn away from the body and immerse ourselves in something that brings us joy. Often this allows the body to heal itself naturally.

  7. Anne says

    What is there about a garden that evokes a universal response from almost everyone? I see it as a partnership with God, the grand creator of our universe. We can do the designing and planting in our own little plots, but it is He who said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed;” (Genesis 1:29). God saw that it was good, and as His children, we see the beauty in that goodness. Seeing a garden in that light gives me great spiritual joy and satisfaction.

    As others have said, tending to a garden is an act of selflessness. It’s communing with God’s loveliness in all its bounty and making our corner of the world a more peaceful and blessed place for all to enjoy.

    The woman’s marvelous healing is a proof of the restorative power that symbolizes God’s glorious garden, one that is available to every receptive heart.

    As an avid gardener, I loved this post and rejoice with the woman who saw the potential in an area of blight and did something about it. Her reward illustrates that nothing is impossible. God is always on the field — and in the garden.

    Thank you so much.

  8. Anne Hughes says

    I read Anna’s complete article in the Vancouver Sun, and she also mentions Nelson Mandela tending a garden on Robben Island while he was imprisoned, and how it encouraged him. Gardening gives time for reflection away from everyday chores, space to get a fresh view, even a God view. Thanks for the post.

  9. Jim Raynesford says

    In the full article was this quote:
    Looking from a spiritual perspective, spiritual revelators have always seen the assurance of ever-present life and beauty that reflects the divine, and lies within. The human eye sees only the surface appearance, where barrenness and hopelessness seem to exist.
    This reminded me of this passage from The Message Bible (I Corinthians 15:35-39 or so
    Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does the resurrection body look like? If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a ‘dead’ seed, soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anyting alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically differernt.