"There are no accidents in the life of the Christian."
Whenever I pick up a new book, I always turn to the introduction first, hoping the author will give me a glimpse into the reasons they chose to write the volume I’m about to devour. I have found the feast of reading something to be much more satisfying when I have an understanding behind the thought process that created the journey I’m about to embark upon.
This is why I’ve chosen to share with you the story behind Transformation Garden for this website didn’t just happen by accident.
A garden is planted
Transformation Garden was born on Thursday, August 28, around 6:00 p.m., although I didn’t know it at the time.
On that day, my husband Jim and I were returning home from a business trip in California. We were on the western outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona when the unthinkable happened. A desperate young man, wishing to kill himself, intentionally sat in his car in the middle of the freeway and without warning drove into oncoming traffic as fast as his car would go.
Unfortunately, Jim and I were traveling in the opposite direction up a small incline in the road and were totally unaware a car was flying toward us at over 75 miles per hour.
The police and investigators told us later the force of the impact was over 145 miles per hour. We were struck head-on. The initial impact killed the young man instantly and left my husband and me fighting for our lives in a wreckage of such twisted metal that at first the police couldn’t even tell what kind of car we were in. As one policeman said to a local newspaper reporter, “It was the most violent wreck I’d ever seen.”
Both Jim and I sustained over 35 broken bones, and many of our bones were shattered and crushed in bits and pieces. For days our lives hung in the balance. However, day by day, with too many surgeries and treatments to mention, the excellent medical care and the powerful prayers of people around the world, put us in a position where our family and friends could breathe easier, finally believing we had a chance to survive.
We spent 4 months in the hospital and another 2 years learning to move and walk again. While the doctors initial predictions were so grim they’d discourage the most courageous person, our Heavenly physician laid His healing hands on us – and did for us what medical science claimed was impossible.
A miracle happens
Did we get the miracle of “perfect” healing where everything is “all well?” No, we didn’t. My husband Jim is totally disabled and will be the rest of his life. With crushing fractures to his legs, it is impossible for him to take even one step without severe pain. The left side of my body was crushed so badly I was told my left hand would be non-functional – it isn’t. My doctors still shake their heads when I move it.
Before this catastrophic event, we owned an advertising agency that had some of the largest and most well-respected non-profit organizations in the world as clients. We rarely unpacked our suitcases except to dump dirty clothes in the washer and put the clean ones back in the suitcase. Sometimes I felt like one of those little hamsters in a cage running faster and faster on a wheel but unable to get off.
The accident turned our world, as we knew it, upside down! We couldn’t do what we had done before. In fact, our physicians informed us we must not do what we had in the past – it was too dangerous to our health.
Because of our forced seclusion, our lives have changed dramatically. Often we ask ourselves, “Why?” It’s a common question many people confront when unexpected calamity enters their world. “Why me?” “Why my precious child?” “Why my mother?” “Why did the tornado take our home?” “Why is my house under 8 feet of water?” “Why did the tsunami hit our island?” “Why did the earthquake destroy our church?” “Why did I get breast cancer?” “Why?” It is a question that every person down through history has asked at least once. Perhaps hundreds of times! We asked it, too – on many occasions.
The day after I was moved out of Intensive Care and taken off the ventilator, Sister Laurana, a tall elderly woman who worked at the hospital, walked into my room. She laid a prayer book on the small table by my bed. Then she spoke these words:
“I was in the emergency room the night they brought you in. We never thought you would live. You lost so much blood and had so many broken bones.” Then a huge smile came over her face, “But you did live.” Sister Laurana took my broken, crushed and casted left hand in hers and said, “You know Dorothy, someday you will be doing something – feeding someone who is hungry or praying for someone who hurts or writing a letter to a friend – and it will hit you, ‘My life was spared for this.’”
Transformation Garden is my “this.” Transformation Garden is my answer to the question, “Why?”
A dream comes true
For years before our accident, I had carried a dream inside me.
Ever since I was 12-years-old and my junior high teacher returned an essay I had written with an A+ on it, I dreamed of becoming a writer. I didn’t long to become a well-known novelist. I didn’t want to write mystery or science-fiction tales. I wanted to write stories about real people with real lives. People I could relate to.
But as much as I enjoyed writing, and for many years I wrote advertising copy, my dream of full-time writing had to be shelved due to the fact that my husband and I needed to take the responsibility for several family members who found themselves in very desperate situations due to the death of a spouse or divorce or financial hardship. We realized we had to have stable incomes and so I relegated my writing to the backshelf – a part-time hobby. I’m certain many of you have found yourselves in the same position. Your dreams may be on hold while, as a single mom, you work three jobs to keep food on the table and clothes on the backs of your precious children. Some might call it obligation, some call it responsibility, you just call it love!
However, when a catastrophic event dumps a tsunami of trouble in our lives – even our best laid plans can be turned upside down. This is exactly what happened to Jim and me after our car accident. After two years of being taken by van in wheelchairs to out-patient rehab, our medical insurance company decided they had met their responsibility. It didn’t matter we couldn’t get around, we were cut-off cold. Now our real struggle began. We were on our own. Yes, we had phenomenal staff working at our company who kept things going the best they could. But it became obvious, very quickly, our lives would never be the same again.
For me personally, one change that was disturbing was that I could not sleep at night. I’d fall asleep but about 1 a.m. in the morning, I was wide awake – for at least two hours. This severe sleep disturbance continued for years. I didn’t want to rely on sleeping pills so I tried tea, warm milk, a heating pad on my back, soft, relaxing music, a bath with special aromas that supposedly would help induce sleep. All to no avail.
One night, in utter desperation and misery, I screamed out to God, “Isn’t the pain in all these fractured bones enough trouble for one girl? Now, I can’t sleep.” I wasn’t just miserable, I’ll freely admit, I was angry.
At a point of feeling as though I would collapse, I had a thought. I decided to read the gospel of John during one of my “up-all-night” episodes. Something special got my attention. It was the wonderful stories about the way Jesus interacted with women. My search was on. Soon the rough draft for a book began. Six years later, yes, sometimes things don’t move as fast as we would like, the final draft of When A Woman Meets Jesus, my book about Jesus and 18 women in the New Testament, was published by Baker Revell Publishers.
When I began to write, When A Woman Meets Jesus, the time I spent with Jesus each day went up dramatically. It became for me – sacred time. Even if I did write in the middle of the night, I can’t begin to tell you how much I valued the time alone. It was precious to me. And the infusion of life I received rejuvenated my mind and heart.
When I finished writing the book, I found myself continuing to yearn for time with Jesus – but I didn’t just long for the time – I continued to study. One day, several friends said, “I wish you would write a daily devotional.” I thought they were crazy. I had a thousand reasons why the idea was ridiculous. I didn’t have time. I have a disabled husband. My health isn’t great. I’m not a graduate of Harvard Divinity School. I’m a woman. I’d embarrass myself because nobody would read it. Other people already had devotional sites, and the list goes on!
I decided I’d go to the Spring of Life – the One person whom I have been able to count on, even when He couldn’t count on me!
At first, I asked God to take away my foolish thoughts. I couldn’t write everyday. I knew I wouldn’t have the ideas. 365 days a year is a lot to write. How could I come up with something new every day?
Well, guess what? I couldn’t. But God is an unlimited well of heavenly thoughts. However – and this is BIG, I didn’t begin to realize how BIG God is until I put my foot into His pool!
A prayer is answered
Once I decided that in January 2007, we would launch Transformation Garden, a free daily devotional and prayer website, it was as though the flood gates opened. Within a week, all the themes for the year were laid out. I met a web designer at a meeting I went to in our community, whom I didn’t even know a day earlier. Several of my office staff suggested and improved on ideas I had. As I took each step, I said to God, “If You want me to do this, You’ll have to give me the thoughts each day.” I can tell you, I have never again had to worry about what I’d write. There have been times when I was planning ahead several weeks and I would say to myself, “I wonder what I should write about next Tuesday?” I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea! But when Tuesday rolled around – God had sent me the thoughts. Sometimes it was a quote I read as I studied. Sometimes it was a passage of Scripture that set my heart on fire. And sometimes God used YOU! Yes, You! Sometimes, a prayer partner or visitor to the Garden would share a need or an answer to prayer or a beautiful quote that would be God’s catalyst for a devotional that hopefully was what was needed for even one heart each day.
Let me give you this report – over 1,000 days ago I began to write everyday. I put my foot in the water – and God has done the rest. In fact, He did something else for me. On the first day, when the very first devotional went up on Transformation Garden, I made this promise to my Heavenly Father. I told Him that as long as one person each day said they were thankful Transformation Garden was there for them, this would be my sign from Him that I was doing His will, not my own. And here’s what happened.
On the first day, I remember thinking no one would ever find Transformation Garden. We don’t have an advertising budget. But here’s the miracle – within 2 hours of the site “going live,” I had an email from a girl with an urgent prayer request and a note, “I’m so thankful you were here for me.” That was Day 1. Since that day – not one day has gone by that someone, somewhere in over 175 countries around the world, hasn’t written to me and said, “God sent me here.” “I had a Divine appointment here today. I don’t know how I found this site, but God answered my prayer.” “My computer froze and when it came back on, I was in Transformation Garden. I don’t know how I got here but I’m so glad I did.”
A garden blooms
But there’s more to the “garden” than the written word. There’s the heavenly artwork which is another one of God’s miracles.
Of all the things that happened to me personally after our car accident, there was one injury which disturbed me the most. While several internal injuries and subsequent problems with blood clots could have killed me – having my left arm and hand crushed was one of the most devastating. I had played the piano for 40 years and the idea of never playing again seemed too painful to think about. But with fingers that were deformed and unable to move and both the orthopedic trauma surgeon and hand surgeon telling me it would be impossible for me to play – I realized it was a reality I needed to accept and face head-on. My young occupational therapist, trying to cheer me up, suggested I take an art class. I laughed out loud at such an idea and informed him I was no artist. But he persuaded me to go to the class and early one morning he showed up with my wheelchair and told me I was off to class. Dutifully I slid into the wheelchair as the therapist pushed me toward one of many new experiences.
After several weeks in art class, I finally drew an apple. Believe it or not, it actually looked like the fruit. As I left the class, the teacher said, “Dorothy, when you get home from the hospital, you should think about taking an art class. It would be good for you and it will help take your mind off your problems.”
Back at home, I had so many challenges to face I completely forgot about an art class. Then, we moved into a smaller house, and to a smaller town and I really forgot about art. Two weeks after our move, a catalog from the local art school came in my mail. I casually glanced at it but when I laid it down it fell open to a page which advertised a watercolor class by Betty Carr. I had no idea who Betty was or where exactly the school was. But I made a phone call and found out the class was very close to my house, so I signed up. What a class, what a fabulous group of people, and what a wonder Betty was. To this day it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. Not that I can paint. I can’t! My pictures were worse than mediocre. But Betty had a way of making you feel as though you were Monet or Rembrandt. She raved about everything her students attempted. She pointed out our strengths and with positive reinforcement encouraged us to improve where we were weak. After a week with this bundle of joy and energy I knew I had a “new” friend. Our class ended and our paths separated. Betty travels all over the world teaching and painting. She and her husband, Howard, are not only in demand by collectors but as instructors.
As they say, “Time flies.” For 3 years, I’d been up at night writing my book, When A Woman Meets Jesus. But as I began to work on the idea of having a daily devotional site, my thoughts turned to the way I wanted the site to look – and I love flowers and gardens. In fact, before our car accident, I loved going out into my garden and planting flowers. But with all the fractures I sustained in my legs and feet, kneeling in a garden now is out of the question. However, I still can plant pots and I have a little cart with wheels that I can scoot around on my patio. So when I chose the name, Transformation Garden, I began to picture in my mind the visual images I hoped could accompany the words, and guess who came to my mind – Betty Carr.
I picked up the phone and called her – out of the blue. “Betty,” I asked hesitantly, “do you remember me?”
“Absolutely,” she responded.
“Well,” I began, “I’m working on a project and I’d like your help.” Then I continued by sharing the idea behind Transformation Garden. I told Betty it was a Christian devotional site. Not knowing anything about Betty’s personal life and her beliefs I wasn’t certain how she would respond. When I finished I waited for her to say something. Silence! Then Betty said, “You won’t believe this. But I have been praying that God would give me something to do for Him. A project where I could incorporate and use my artistic talents for Him. Furthermore, I have three weeks right now and I am not traveling. I have time to work on this immediately. I’ll be at your house tomorrow.”
Do you remember the text in Romans 8: 28 – “ALL things work together.” When I was lying in a hospital bed weeping my eyes out because I had been told I would never play the piano again, little did I know that an art class in the hospital would end up leading me to Betty who was praying God would use her immense talent for Him. “ALL THINGS!” And it’s just another Transformation Garden miracle!
You know, a miracle, I have found, doesn’t have to be some supernatural bolt of lightening or an amazing moment of complete and total healing. It can be and it may be! But it may also be that moment in your life when you are overcome by the realization that God has you in the palm of His hand. It may be that time in the middle of the night when you write the last chapter of your book, as I did, and realize that God can take the worst, most unthinkable events of our lives and turn them into a miracle that reflects His ability to use the weakest of us when we rely completely upon His strength.
How often through the struggles Jim and I face everyday, I have thought about the Apostle Paul in prison in Rome and under house arrest in Rome. He may have felt God had abandoned him as his plans for traveling from church to church were turned upside down. What a waste! So ALL Paul could do was write letters to churches and individuals. This is what Romans, Philippians, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Philemon, Titus, and 1 and 2 Timothy are! They are letters, handwritten by Paul and his helpers – many of them penned when he was incarcerated and unable to visit the people he loved.
Paul didn’t lament what he couldn’t do. Instead he wrote letters about Jesus. And the words Paul wrote are still lifting you and me heavenward – reminding us again and again that “ALL” things work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8: 28).
Over the years, as Jim and I have, with God’s help tried to put our lives back together again, when darkness and uncertainty have enveloped us, I have realized one thing more clearly – hanging onto God’s hand is the only way to walk, especially when you can’t see what’s ahead!
From our experience, I can say that God is the One I trust, for He knows what is best for each one of us – even when the future is totally unknown. And from the wreckage of unanticipated and capricious events in our lives, a garden will grow and bloom from the seeds of love He has planted.
“I thank you, Lord God, for all my pains; if it please you, Lord, increase them a hundredfold and I shall thankfully accept whatever You give, not sparing me; for in the fulfillment of Your will I find my greatest solace.”
St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)
When his illness grew worse