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APRIL 2005 ISSUE HOMEPAGE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Breath of Fresh Air
A Merry Heart
A Woman's World
A Word in Season
Acting Up
As I Imitate Christ
Cyber Walk
Faith Seekers
Golden Apples
Heaven Bound
Just Between Men
Take it to Heart
Teen Truth
The Joy of Family
The Parents'
Survival Guide

The Rhythm of Life
The Treehouse
Through Their Eyes
'Tis the Season
We Are the Church
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Garden of Second Chances
By DeAnna Brooks

Life is a garden Ö and like all gardens, mine contains a variety of elements and seeds mixed together. Some blooming; others dormant. Some planted by the Master Gardener; others by our own hearts.

I met J.R. in college, our senior year. Our courtship was short and we married a few months after graduating. He was a wounded man, though I didnít see it at the time. They say love is blind, and now I know itís true. J.Rís wounds would seed the soil of our garden and my children and I would live with the scars. Though I ached for him, my children quickly became the battlefield of his wounds.

Donít misunderstand. J.R. was not an evil person, or even a bad one. He was simply lost, and when the dream of ministry did not bear expected fruit, his God directed anger scattered its bountiful seed throughout our garden.

Our garden suddenly bore the stamp of a God my husband described as cruel and vindictive, a deity bearing no resemblance to the God who had my name carved in the palm of His hand. A distorted stamp, an enemyís seed, had infiltrated our garden till it was no longer a garden I recognized.

As J.R.ís wounds of anger grew, my ache for him multiplied. Darkness tried to weave a blanket about our home. The spiritual warfare was tangible, and the light of Godís presence my only warmth.

Godís grace cast His own seed of promise in our garden, and soon its fruit was evidenced by our three children. Three second chances to rejoice in God goodness, and the evidence of His presence in our lives. The seeds of anger continued to be cast thickly throughout our gardenís soil; their choking fruit growing rampantly.

Within the walls of our home I taught our children about God and His love for them, but church was still out of the question. When my oldest son turned four, I said I wanted to attend church that Sunday with our children. J.R. didnít forbid our going, but his refusal to attend with us never wavered.

That decision began to bear a harvest almost immediately as my children began to see others, besides their mother, love Jesus! Sunday became a day they looked forward to, becoming actively involved in the Sunday school program. By the time they reached junior high school, my middle two children were involved in teaching Sunday school as teachersí assistants. Godís harvest was bearing fruit in their own hearts and lives.

Still within the walls of our apartment, darkness grew, taking on many guises. The scars continued to spread ugly weeds, trying to choke out the beauty of the garden God designed.

Rejection inflicted uncountable wounds in the tender soil of my childrenís hearts; each its own garden. Silence reigned in the hours J.R. spent at home, as few as they were. Our carefree children, put on anxietyís grab, and eggshells shattered regardless of how gingerly we walked behind those dark walls.

We were desperate for new second chances. It came in an unexpected guise.

Shortly after learning I carried our fourth child, J.R. announced he was leaving. Never saying a word to the children, he simply packed boxes one afternoon; taking with him nearly everything bearing his imprint.

On his final trip, J.R. discovered the bearers of his deepest imprints sitting in confusion on the steps. Without even saying good-bye, his parting words planted more seeds deep in soil that would bear fruit for lifetimes to come.

"Iím living someplace else now!" was all he left behind.

As hard and unexpected as that season was for each of us, in an odd way, showers of second chances would flood the days to follow. Learning Godís individual and personal love, started new hope for us as His daily provision met our every need. As we chose to rejoice and focus on God, He scattered His seeds in every corner of our days, until our home knew only the fragrance of His garden. Darkness found itself cast out as laughter and joy began to reign.

Even the little life I carried within my womb carried the name 'second chance,' with my children and I finding everyday of this growing life an experience to share.

For each of us Justinís birth stood visible proof of Godís continued second chances, contained in every new discovery he made becoming ours too. Seeing things anew through his eyes brought a home full of laughter, joy and love. This love poured upon us endlessly as our lives were made new through this precious little babe.

Difficulties? Yes, they remained, but always seasoned with such hope that soon we learned obstacles truly were just opportunities in disguise. Single-parenthood of four small children closed doors to my working for four years. Then another second chance sprouted in Godís garden of my heart.

All my life I dreamed of being a wife and a stay-at-home mom, pouring my energies into nurturing my children and loving my husband. Those dreams had shattered. Turning my children over to someone else to raise, gnawed at my heart until it was nearly overwhelmed. When the day finally arrived to enter the workforce again, Godís miraculous work was everywhere. An opportunity to work at a private school where my children could get a Christian education as well, proved to be welcome fruit of my sacrifice to be a stay-at-home mom.

Throughout those years my children and I saw God part one Red Sea after another. It was beyond comprehension, but He showered His love upon us and our Garden of Second Chances grew and grew.

Eventually, God transplanted us to a small town in the south where life was slower and days were quieter. We looked forward to all the blessings life there would hold. A year to the day after our arrival, Justin was killed in a freak car accident. Questions and confusion cast its pall on the Light we had come to trust so completely, but not for long.

We soon found Justinís heart, buried in so many pages of our lives, left in so many remnants of the journey he walked here. His heart bore Godís heart, a heart where second chances are less than a prayer away.

So our garden continues to grow. And though I donít know what that ever-changing garden will look like from day to day, I do know the Gardener. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He faithfully works the soil, pulls the weeds, and waters with tender compassion. All the while, His love casts the seeds of second chances throughout the garden of my life, where it will ultimately yield a garden whose beauty is beyond description. After all, the Gardener, Heís an artist beyond compare.
DeAnna Brooks is a lover of words and a lover of creation, making her current residence in the hill country of Texas. For DeAnna, life is God's precious work of art, and her greatest love is looking for the Creator's fingerprints throughout each and every day. To experience more of her writing and her heart, feel free to visit Living Water Whispers (http://www.LivingWaterWhisperings.highpowersites.com)
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