The unexpected story of the cottage garden desk

Once upon a time there was a desk. It was a well-made desk, constructed of real wood and hard nails. Its panels were not constructed of particle board and glued together in China.  It was not sold at Wal-Mart.  No, this desk was the real deal. And this is its unexpected story.

Its past is shrouded in mystery. Perhaps it sat in a fancy foyer in a mansion, and each day the mail, full of good news and bad, was laid upon it. It could have served in a little girl’s room…a place of reflection where a growing girl could diary her hopes and dreams. It could have been in the apartment of a young woman, a strong support for her laptop while she searched for jobs. God alone knows where it came from and what purpose it served.

But for some reason unbeknownst to us, the desk was abandoned. It was placed for sale at a consignment and antique store in the outskirts of town. It was purposeless, abandoned, and alone. And it was only worth $129.  Longing for a home, it slowly gathered dust and cobwebs and got used to the rejection of being passed over by shoppers.

I had spent weeks looking for a desk just like this one. It was the right size, made of durable materials, and just within my budget. I paid for it, had some help loading it up, and proudly took it home.  I also bought a $10 chippy chair that came home, too.

In my home, this desk would not be a place to set the mail or write in a diary or work on a laptop. It would serve quite a different purpose. It would not even be allowed to spend its life inside the warm, dry, cozy brick house. It would be banished outside, where the rain would swell the wood, the sun would break down its paint, and the cold would chill its bones.

It seemed like a punishment, but I had a very special plan and purpose for this particular desk. To its chagrin, I took it apart, leaving it naked and hollow in my front yard.

And there, in front of the curious eyes of my neighbors, a transformation slowly began to take place. The sturdy desk was cleaned and sanded and slowly stripped of its past. Research was done and new paint was purchased. Then, in the warm sun of my front yard, the desk was painted.

I could hear its loud protestations while I waved cans of spray paint above it.  It pitched a royal fit. It felt as humiliated as a teenager in a bright pink bunny costume. For I did not follow the Southern Living trends and paint it with a calming cool blue or a trendy french gray, but I painted it with Rustoleum Gloss Grape and Krylon Citrus Green.

It was LOUD. Tacky. Shocking. Stripped of its former beauty, it felt out of place in my front yard that was decorated with stately Old Willow china. It stuck out like a sore thumb. Insecurity filled its drawers as it hung its head in shame.

Then, it felt movement. Gingerly carried down a pathway to the back of the house. It passed under a rose-covered arbor, and found itself in a….wait, what is this? A garden? NO WAY!

What in the world…a desk in the garden? Desks don’t go in gardens, they go inside homes! Has someone lost their mind?

No. Not at all. When I bought that overlooked and abandoned desk, I had something very special in mind just for it. The desk would be painted with bright colors and placed in a prime spot in my garden.

Why on earth would you put a desk in a garden? For one reason, and one reason only.

To bring joy. Pure, innocent, unexpected joy.  Smiles and laughter and delight.

That desk’s purpose was no longer to be a dull spot for paying bills or doing work or writing letters, but it existed solely to bring joy. And in my whimsical cottage garden, it did not stick out like a sore thumb but it found its home. Surrounded by rusty bicycles and colorful rocking chairs and tacky school desks, it fit in perfectly.

The desk drawers were filled with blooming flowers and in time the flowers took root and spilled down the sides of the desk. A chair was painted and a seat cushion was made to match. A lamp, a lantern, and various trinkets were purchased so that the desk looked like it was in someone’s room. The look was finished with a happy plaque placed above it.

The transformed desk was the star of the show during my annual garden tour and brunch. It brought joy and delight and “WOW!” to all of my guests.

The ugly duckling desk felt glorious!

Well, spring turned to summer, and summer turned to fall, and fall turned to winter. The blooming desk was neglected as the gardener hibernated in her warm home. Rain left water spots on the desk. Decaying leaves deposited their stains. The flowers withered and turned brown as the warm air turned to cold.

And then…wait for it…rats invaded.

Yes, rats.

The desk was placed next to a bird feeder which is a source of food for the rodents that are proliferous in Wilmington neighborhoods. These rats thought that the desk was beautiful, too, and began to empty the drawers of plants and potting soil and fill them with pine straw and twigs and leaves. The rats thought they had died and gone to heaven…a warm, dry rat hotel placed right next to a food source in the midst of an enchanting cottage garden.

Now the joyful desk was no longer full of blooming plants but of dirty, grotesque rodents. It was humiliated, but it still served a purpose. It was an incubator of life. It was a cozy shelter for a mother tending her young. It fostered a part of God’s creation. Since no one would see the ratty desk during the winter, the gardener decided to leave the nest until the spring, so that God’s design would not be interrupted.

Then a surprising thing happened…something that is rare for this coastal town. It snowed. Not just flurries, or a dusting, but four inches of snow covered everything in the whimsical cottage garden where the desk lived.

And do you know what? Suddenly you couldn’t see the rain-pocked paint on the desktop, or the stains from the leaves, or the dead flowers hanging by the drawers. You could no longer see the rat nest in the drawers because they were covered with snow. The desk was new, pristine, and beautiful again.

It’s hard to imagine, but it was even MORE beautiful covered with the pure white snow.

The desk was once again the “star of the show” as I shared pictures of it on Facebook. Damaged and dirty, it still served the intended purpose of me, the gardener.

It bought joy.

I know the desk needs help, and when it warms up and trees begin to bud, I will work on the desk. I will clean off the leaves, apply a fresh coat of paint, and replace the pine straw nests with fresh potting soil and blooming flowers.  I will find some way to prevent the rats from nesting…maybe I will fill the drawers with bricks.

But in the short span of an afternoon, the desk will be cleaned out and made fresh and new…ready to bring joy and delight to garden visitors.

There are many parallels to our lives that we can draw from this cottage garden desk.

Often we feel abandoned, overlooked, and alone, but then God, the master gardener, chooses us.  He goes and searches for us and He chooses us for His purpose and plans. We often feel out of place, but in time He places us in a chosen spot that is perfect for us.

He puts us with our tribe.

Often we don’t like how we look or our personalities, but God made us this way with intention.  Just like my desk is unique, we are all like snowflakes, each different in our own way.

We all have a purpose. We balk at our purpose, because we think it should be so much more important than it is. For many of us, our personalities and purpose are simply to bring joy. People need joy, and God can use us…a smile or a joke or a simple gift…to bring it.

And unfortunately, all of us have secret areas of filth in our lives that we want to keep from others. They are dirty and shameful and embarrassing. I believe that God, our master gardener, is not rushing down to fix things right this instant. He knows that the pure, white, holiness of Jesus covers us and makes us beautiful. And in His timing and plan, He will clean us out and rid us of those struggles with darkness. He will give us beauty once again.

You may feel like my transformed desk. Abandoned, embarrassed, lonely, and ashamed. The truth is that you are chosen.  You were bought.  You are unique.  You were created for a purpose.

And the blood of Jesus is enough to cover all your sin.

So take a deep breath, dear one.  Be yourself.  Find your tribe. Bring joy.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalm 139:14

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