“More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.” – Spanish proverb
As harvest season arrives, Grace reaps the bounty of her small garden at Springs Rescue Mission. She’s once again reminded of God’s love — and His promise of new life.
“Seeing things grow is like seeing babies being born,” she said. “It reminds me that God is watching, and that he cares.”
After ending up at Springs Rescue Mission in January, Grace decided that she might as well make the best out of a hard situation. It wasn’t the first time she’d been forced to search for the silver lining of her life. After an abusive childhood, teenage homelessness, broken marriages and battles with addiction, it’s become a necessary skill.
“I’m just making the best of it – moving forward and trying to let go of the past,” she said. “We make the best of what we got, and no matter what keep I that chin propped up where it belongs!”
When Grace was growing up, there was always a family garden. For her, plants are special. They represent new life, God’s love and hope for a harvest to come.
“I did it because it makes it feel like home — and it gives me something to focus on,” she said. “It gives me hope.”
One day, after joining the cleanup crew through Work Engagement, she began planting a small garden in the courtyard between the Men’s Shelter and Resource Center. She cared for them gingerly; and day after day, and the Mission’s guests watched them bloom and blossom.
“I’ve got squash, cucumber, radishes, tomatoes, snap beans, raspberries and fresh herbs and wildflowers,” she said. “I water them every day unless God has already taken care of it. I’m real proud of them.”
We spoke to Grace recently about her traumas, her struggles, her faith and her hope.
Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing?
“Well, I’m originally from New Jersey but we moved to Philadelphia when I was a kid and that’s where I went to school. … Grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school until second grade. But they demanded both parents to attend bingo nights at the church, so all five of us kids got expelled because my father was a pilot and couldn’t commit to that.”
When did you start struggling with addiction?
“We started going to public school and I had started smoking weed when I was 8. By the time I was 14 I was using cocaine. I wasn’t going to school, I got into drugs and ended up selling drugs. Because of that, my parents started beating on me. I heard a conversation between them about sending me away to a boarding school, so I just left. I thought I’d get high and live my life and be happy.”
Where did your life go from there? Where did you live?
“After I left home at 14, I was living in the woods for a while. I was crying and praying, praying and crying, freezing in the woods at night. I lost some faith around that time. I quit praying for a few years until I met my husband, got married at 18, got pregnant with my first son and we moved to Virginia. My husband abused me, and I needed God to help me. After we got divorced, I read “Footprints in the Sand.” That’s when I got my faith back.”
And you got remarried, right? How was that marriage?
“It was good. He was a good man and treated me right. He worked hard and made good money, and he was very, very smart. We were together for 13 years — had two kids together — and he died in a motorcycle accident. That was horrible when he died, because he was my rock. I never had to worry when I was with him. I was just so devastated – it’s still a shock to me sometimes. … After that, I moved to Kansas to raise my kids up around his family.”
How did you end up in Colorado and when did you come to the Mission?
“After I was in Kansas for about 10 years, we moved to Missouri for a while. … I was in an abusive relationship that I needed to get out of, and I was about to be evicted because I couldn’t work anymore. I had a bunch of back injuries and have a permanent limp, and I had a hard time getting on disability and social security. … I figured I could have been homeless here just as well as I could there – and I needed to get away from that boyfriend. And my son is here, so I wanted to be closer to him. I got here in February and came straight to the Mission.”
Oh, where does your son live?
“Well, he’s in prison for life down in southern Colorado. I haven’t seen him in almost three years, but it’s great to be close.”
What’s your experience been like at Springs Rescue Mission?
“When I first got here, I was really overwhelmed. But I got on Work Engagement and made a lot of good friends. Then I got into the Women’s Shelter in April. … One day I asked if they wouldn’t mind if I plant some things in the raised beds there and they said yes. They thought it would be therapeutic for me and a benefit to others around here – and it did. … I planted everything in April and May.”
Tell me more about your garden.
“Well, growing up we always had a garden. Then after I had my own house, I had one every year. Yeah, the garden helps me a lot. … Sometimes they take some to the kitchen and put it in a meal!”
Do you still struggle with drugs and alcohol?
“Well, I’ve been straight now since January. It’s the longest I’ve been clean and sober by choice. I decided that drugs had gotten me into some pretty shaky situations, so I asked God to help me get sober — and He did. … It’s nice to be off of drugs. I’ve learned that there’s a whole big world out here that I’ve been missing.”
What gives you the hope you need to keep going?
“God’s a big part of my life. I’ve always had faith. … God must have me here for a reason.”
What are you looking forward to in the future?
“I’d like to move down south to be closer to my son. I’d be able to see him every weekend when visitation is reopened. We write each other letters but it’s not the same as seeing each other. … I’m just hoping to get some help and move out of here. …. I’d like to learn marketing and maybe get into that business, and then hopefully get a little one-bedroom house of my own one day. And I’ll have a garden, of course!”
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