Cultivating the Soil

How God cultivated the soil of my life to create Miracles in the Mess | By Sandy Ochoa-West

Cultivate Defined:

To prepare and use (land) for crops or gardening; To till, plow, dig and work the soil

To try to acquire or develop a quality, sentiment, or skill; He cultivated a life of integrity

Gardener Defined:

A person who tends and cultivates a garden as a pastime or for a living.


My mom loved gardening and was really good at it. Me on the other hand, well I have pretty much killed every plant I’ve ever had and can’t even manage to grow mint which apparently you can just throw on to the dirt and it grows and takes over everything! With me however, dead in two days!!! I give a whole new meaning to the word black thumb, so the fact that I am writing about tilling the soil, gardening, cultivating etc. is a miracle in itself.

As a young girl I felt always felt like I didn’t fit in, didn’t belong. I grew up as the middle child in a family of 6 kids (I know that explains a lot right) and as a tiny little freckle faced kid I pretty much felt invisible, unnoticed and overlooked. As I look back I realize that even at a young age my life was being tilled and cultivated, but not by the one who created me. The enemy took control as the gardener and starting planting the seeds and cultivating the soil of my life with things like unworthiness, fear and feeling like I didn’t belong.  At about 14 years old, even though I was on Drill team, in Glee Club and the Journalism staff, I felt ugly and out of place. I felt like a weed in a garden of beautiful flowers. It was around that time that I took over as the gardener (remember the whole black thumb thing) and as I started to plant my own seeds in the soil that was already damaged and unhealthy I slowly began to cultivate a life filled with drug addiction, abortion, abusive relationships, depression and suicide attempts. This downward spiral would go on until the age of 30. I’m going to spare you all the ugly messiness I created because my story is really a story of redemption. On August 27, 1995 at a Harvest Crusade, I accepted Jesus into my heart and gave my life over to the Master Gardener. He began to dig up all of the guilt, shame and feelings of unworthiness that the enemy had planted and began to tenderly till the soil with love, grace, mercy, and hope. I was redeemed by the gift of God’s sacrifice on the cross.

The drug addiction had changed my life forever, but Jesus; he changed my life for eternity. I was in bondage to so many things but that day the chains were broken and I walked away a free woman because Jesus loved me enough to pay the ransom for my sin with His own blood, His own life. He accepted me just as I was, but loved me too much to let me stay that way. What Satan used for evil, God used for good. Through God’s redemption and His grace He turned my test into my testimony, my mess into my message, my broken into beautiful and I went from victim to victory.  And today I have the privilege of mentoring young women, teaching them to develop and cultivate a sense of self based on a deep and personal relationship with Jesus, grounded in the Word of God and passionate about sharing the Gospel. I am willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly.

“We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives too.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8 NLT

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT

feature_940x529_cultivate_14-158111Today, I still can’t keep a plant alive (I’m giving succulents a shot at the moment, pray for them), I love weeds more than flowers and I have finally allowed the one who created me to be the Master Gardener.

“God rescued me from the grave, and now my life is filled with light.” Job 33:28 NLT

I would like to share 3 of my writings with you; each relates to my Miracles in the Mess.

The first was written at a workshop at a Youth Winter camp in 2016 where the students were asked to write a letter to their future selves. As I looked around the room I realized that they were all about the age I was when I started using drugs so I decided instead to write a letter to my 14 year old self.  

Letter to My 14-Year-Old-Self :“You took these rags & made me beautiful” (11/2016)

Oh sweet girl, how I wish you knew back then how very much our Heavenly Father loved you.

The pain and the sorrow, the shame and the guilt you endured searching for someone to simply love you for who you are.

The addictions you chased to fill the hole in your heart could have been so easily healed by the one who created you and your beating heart.

It was a God shaped hole that took on many forms but only He could truly fill.

Climb up into His lap & lay your head on His chest. Let your tears pour down for He hears your cries.

You are enough! You’re pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, simply enough.

If you only knew how God is going to turn your pain into purpose, your test into you testimony and how He will take you from victim to victory.

In years to come you will be sharing your story of God taking your broken and turning it into beautiful.

How He took the dirty, messy rags of your life and wove them into a beautiful tapestry to cover & comfort those who are hurting.

You will leave the cocoon and become a beautiful butterfly ready to color the world with your story of redemption and deliverance.

You will leave the cocoon and become a beautiful butterfly ready to color the world with your story of redemption and deliverance.

This next writing was written in 2016 around this time of year after I had driven by this field filled with the most beautiful wild flowers (weeds) I had ever seen. God gave me a revelation about myself and “Weeds” was born.

Weeds (2016)

I have decided that my favorite flower isn’t a rose or daffodil or sweet pea. Although I find them beautiful, I am drawn to

and love the weeds found scattered on freeway off-ramps, fields and various other random places. The definition of a weed

is: a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants. I’ve been thinking about my love of weeds for a few days and today God gave me a revelation as to why they are so dear to me and why I am so drawn to them. They are the overlooked, unwanted and set aside. Some people don’t want them around at all, they are an inconvenience. That is how I felt for so much of my life; unwanted, uncared for, like I was just an inconvenience, like I was existing where I wasn’t wanted with people who were much better or more cultivated than I was. Today I see broken people out there who like weeds are set aside, overlooked and unwanted. They are walking through life feeling as if they don’t matter to anyone, that they are ugly and just an inconvenience. I make eye contact and our hearts speak: why can’t anyone see me, why can’t they see that I matter and have purpose, and I reply “oh sweet and wild weed, there is one who sees, one who cares and one who gave you purpose. He is your creator. Bloom in His presence and the world will finally see that yes you are wild but you are oh so beautiful, oh so worthy and oh so loved.


Lastly, at the beginning of this year I was asked not only to be a part of TFH Women’s Ministry Team but to also be on the panel of women sharing their testimony at the March Daughters Event. The theme we decided on was “Cultivating What Matters”, Miracles in the Mess. The next morning as I was praying God put this writing on my heart.


The Master Gardener

Father, you have planted a new seed in my heart and have tilled the soil of my life with

your tender love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.

Jesus you are the “Sonshine” I needed and through your redemption and deliverance, I’ve become stronger.

Holy Spirit you have watered me with wisdom, discernment and direction and what began as a seed has blossomed into me finally starting to become the Woman of God I was created to be.

When I allowed the enemy to till the soil of my life, only shame, guilt and fear were grown, but Jesus, when I finally

surrendered my life to you, you planted the seed of redemption in soil rich with hope, encouragement, and faith.

Where the enemy saw a weed, unworthy of anything and cast aside by most, you saw me as beautiful;

a treasure, a daughter and worthy of an abundant life.

I am nourished by your unconditional love.

Now, when I see a woman who has allowed the enemy and the world to plant the seeds of discouragement & despair in her life, I know that can take her by the hand and lead her to the one who can give her new life; I can lead her to the Master Gardener.



Messages Image(3099754613)Sandy Ochoa-West has lived in Southern California her whole life. The beach is her favorite place, it’s where she feels like she can reach out and touch God’s face. She loves reading, her family, connecting with friends and a good strong cup of coffee! She is the mom of two great kids and one son-in love. Robyn (39), her hubby Joseph (34) and Shane (24).  Mentoring women is her passion. She strives to be as real and transparent as possible as she shares her story of redemption and deliverance.



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