Tales from the potting shed

Michelle Tennens

by Donna Walker, leader of Restore Retreat Centre in Essex & a partner at Kingsland Church

The most amazing things can happen in the dark out and of sight. As a gardener planting a bulb or a seed, I know that as it gets nutrients from the soil that bulb or seed is no longer, it is now slowly being transformed into a plant. Restore started with a seed of an idea planted there by the Holy Spirit. That seed of the idea came to me as a social work student in 2008. I thought then that time and space for creative activity would help clients through some of their challenges. I had no idea then that in the future I would be the person who would make that idea happen.

The seeds of Restore were planted in my spiritual season of winter, as the Ruth Chou-Simons puts it “Just because it isn’t blooming doesn’t mean it isn’t growing”. This season began when I decided in the 2nd year of my social work degree that social work was no longer for me. This was a heartbreaking decision to make as I had returned to education as a mature student and had taken a five-year journey of literacy and foundation courses to gain the entry requirement for the social work course. After that an 18-month battle with my mental health began.

Even though apparently nothing was happening at that point in the confines of being at home and laid up in bed I believe then the seeds of empathy and sympathy were being planted for those who find themselves in a similar situation to myself of feeling rejected and worthless. Through many years if crafting I understood the impact of making beautiful items and creating our garden on my own mental health during episodes of ill-health. Just simply looking at colour either through paint or fabric and colours of flowers set my soul soaring and turned down the emotional volume that I was experiencing at that point in my life.

Restore is gradually beginning to put out a complex system of roots as God begins his equipping. In particular the provision of a great team of people who serve at Restore with their great gifts and abilities in listening, praying and helping other to create.

One of the promises of God that he put on my heart during the low time: The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

In scripture they are so many great people who were being prepared by God out of sight, seemingly disregarded by the world around them. It can be tempting to think that it was a short period of time before these leaders emerged into amazing things for God and being rewarded accordingly. In 1 Samuel 17 v 34-36 one of the most of the important characters in the bible King David, before being chosen to be King, fought with lions and bears to protect the Lambs. He learnt this skill in the quiet and unregarded, without even knowing himself how this would be used by God.

It might be at this time in your life you are also wrestling with lions and bears in your workplace, school or college, parenthood, loss, loneliness, depression and broken relationships. God has given each of us spiritual seeds and bulbs to plant. You may not be the same as me having planted them in winter. You may plant them when the soil is right and the sun is shining where in the fall you will easily reap a great harvest.

This blog was reproduced with the kind permission of Donna Walker. If you’d like to find out more about the Restore Retreat Centre, click on the button below