Life as a Franciscan missioner is full of transition and change. We learn to expect the unexpected and that we are never in control.

And the more I reflect on it, the more I realize that these are all just parts of being an adult, the challenging process of learning to embrace change.

The Bolivian women that I work with have known these struggles for much longer than I have. Their histories are full of change and being out of control, often in unjust ways.

They have suffered a lot and are incredibly resilient.

They teach me daily about resilience by their example.

One of the lessons that they have taught me is the joy of having a garden in your home.

The women we work with regularly share testimonies of prioritizing a walk through their gardens every morning, as their preferred way to start the day.

These are not women who go to daily mass or start their days praying to God in the way many Catholics would expect. But their relationship with creation, with the Earth, is deeply spiritual.

They often describe how seeing their plants lifts their spirits and how caring for their gardens is fulfilling to them. Their gardens seem to ground them and grow their commitment to the Earth, to their family and to their community.

Specifically as women, who are so often marginalized, silenced and even some times abused, having a garden to call their own boosts their self-esteem.

They learn through their relationship with the garden that they deserve all the flowers they want and the pleasure of caring for them.

They learn that they are capable of providing for their families with the produce from the garden when their husbands so often undervalue their work in the home.

They connect with other women who share similar values, forming community through the production of their own food.

Their example has inspired me to grow as well.

A few months ago, when my life was particularly filled with transition and change, I turned to Mother Earth for guidance and grounding.

I asked for permission from my landlord to dig up the backyard of our apartment and see what I could make of a very small plot of land in a very urban environment.

Annemarie's garden

Annemarie’s garden

I found the digging cathartic, the fertilizing healing, and the planting hopeful.

The site of life growing in the soil lifted my spirits and my heart was filled with joy when I harvested the first, and then the SECOND and THIRD, time in my tiny garden.

My garden did ground me; it offered me a sense of rootedness, as everything else seemed to be changing. And now I look forward to many more months of production, grateful for easy access to water and filled with faith in the many harvests yet to come.

Annemarie presenting the fruits of her labor

Annemarie and the fruits of her labor