A Family of Gardeners
I come from a family of gardeners. I was born in Lawrence, in the Flint Hills of Northeastern Kansas. My parents were both raised in the Great Plains Midwest, and met at a Kansas agricultural college, studying Botany and Turfgrass Science respectively. I get my academic bent and writing from my father, who after gaining his doctorate wrote editorials for a Turfgrass Science magazine. I get my passion for accessibility and applied learning from my mother, who has works as a university level greenhouse collections manager. She has such a vast working knowledge of horticulture that throughout my years in Girl Scouts, she identified outdoor plants’ names, properties, and related anecdotes in stride.
As unlikely as it seems, in the ecological diverse prairie context of Lawrence, Kansas, I attended a very diverse elementary school. As the designated ESOL (English as a Second Language) school during the late 90s, Hillcrest Elementary hosted students from over 100 countries, many of which were the children of international students at the University of Kansas. As my father’s house bordered my elementary school at the end of the block, my interest in non-Western cultures, languages, and people was permanently formed through proximity.
As the family story goes, my parents involved my 2 half-brothers my twin sister and I’s names. After voting, my sister and I both inadvertently received botanical names. My sister’s name Lauren means “Victory”, which relates to the laurel leaves that were woven together to crown Greek Olympians.
As someone who loves organizing information visually, I prefer to explain my name in pictorial language.
My first name Haley means “Hay field or Harvest field”. My middle name means “River”. My last name means “Seed”. As these things are combined, they ultimately come together to create a garden.
Therefore, my complete name means something akin to “fruitfulness”.
Other little clues remind me of this meaning, like
- The high incidence of twins in my family
- My capacity to bear fruit in both good and challenging experiences
- The amount that I apply and reproduce what I’ve learned
- A sense of calling to harvest Disciples from the nations (Apostolic bent)
- A sense of calling to be a bridge between different cultures, denominations, time periods, and industries, to increase the inheritance Jesus Christ’s spiritual descendants
Given my name meaning, it’s not surprising that some of my first encounters with God were in my elementary school’s outdoor grass fields.
Calling Experience: Finding Hidden Treasure
As a kid, my sister and I spent a good amount of time outdoors. We’d roll over rocks looking for rollie pollies (pill bugs), chase each other home to be the first to pick just ripe raspberries, and dissect my parents flowers. I used to go looking for limestone chalk rock among the gravel in front of my father’s house, selecting stones that were chalky white enough to use to draw on the cement.
Starting elementary school, I was relatively good at scanning surroundings and people. I asked a lot of questions and sometimes made adults uncomfortable because of how much I noticed. At the same time, I had some phenomenal teachers who took an interest in me and helped keep me challenged.
Seeking, scanning, and uncovering ultimately has defined my life, and started to become more tangible in elementary school. While bored on the playground, I used what I learned looking for chalk rocks and began to find small fossils in mounds of pea gravel at recess. To me, this capacity to find fossils reminds me of re-discovering the riches of history to understand what God is doing now and in the future.
As I came into later elementary school, I struggled with loneliness. I would walk in the fenced grass fields behind our school and talk to God. While I still wasn’t sure why I needed Jesus, I had an intuitive sense that God must be real. As my loneliness intensified, I began to pray, saying, “God if you love me, please help me find a four leaf clover.” Around that time, I began finding my first four leaf clovers, and the exercise of seeking and finding would help me remember that I was seen and valued. I continued spending time talking to God outside, began to start seeing figures of people in the Spirit. One of the most intense experiences was seeing a gentle older version of myself who had made a life out of taking care of children. To me, this bent towards finding four leaf clovers reminds me of miracles, signs, and wonders that God reveals to those who seek him.
Around this time period, I also found several women’s wedding rings as I traipsed among the grass. While I wanted to keep them at the time, my teachers had the good sense to return them to their *very relieved* owners.
To me, this experience of finding wedding rings speaks to the restoration of the Bride (the Church).
Overall, each of these objects reminds me of the hidden treasure found in knowing the Lord.
“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”Isaiah 45;3
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.Matthew 13:44-46
Fields, Generations, and Nations
I came back to these same elementary school fields during college. I had just returned from encountering God radically and getting saved on study abroad in Latin America (Chile). As I prayed for God to reveal his purpose for my life, I decided to re-trace my steps and began to work as a tutor in the same elementary school. Over a decade later, the school was just as diverse. I found an unexpected ease acting as a role model. I delighted in teaching kids to look for four leaf clovers and make clover crowns at recess. Through the favor on these experiences, I sensed a commission to work with children in the future. I began to pursue teaching as a way to explore this affinity with kids. Now that I’m older, I know that my calling is related to working with youth, but also God’s children in a broader sense.
While I was an undergraduate, I also continued working with many cultures. Through working at the Office of International Student Services at the University of Kansas, I helped what was the equivalent of my former peer’s parents adapt to the university and life in Kansas. As I graduated, I applied for an alternate teaching certification program that unexpectedly brought me to Washington, DC, where I continued to work with many international families.