It’s been a gorgeous weekend here in Maryland, and I’ve had the chance to be outside for a good part of it. It’s still a bit too could at night to do a lot of planting, although I can’t wait for those days to come. I had a couple of interesting experiences this past week, and they tie in to my being outside working and lounging in my garden. Two weeks ago, a friend was helping me take what turned out to be three loads to the local landfill. As I was going through some things, I came across a book I read four or five years ago. Soul Gardening, written by Terry Hershey, uses garden imagery to remind the reader of the importance to take time to enjoy the beauty all around us, and that sometimes the garden of our soul needs some tender care, maybe even a little weeding from time to time.

Gardening has always been a part of my life. My mom was a consummate gardener, and when I was growing up in a single parent household with eight kids, my mom’s one real escape was getting out in her back yard and tending her roses. She loved her garden, but not as much as she loved her kids, and now my siblings and I often escape to our own gardens when we need to decompress. This photo is of my little prayer garden just outside my kitchen door. The sun rises each day behind the shed, and it’s the perfect place to sit, pray and enjoy my morning cup of coffee. Sadly, it’s still too early to create this year’s prayer garden, but I’ve already started thinking about the plants which will reside in those pots. I can’t wait. In his introduction, Hershey writes that “gardening allows us to make a holy place to serve the soul.” I couldn’t agree more, and this year, I’ve already started to make room in my backyard for a couple of other prayer spots where I and others can “just be” in my little slice of paradise.

While I still re-reading Soul Garden, a new book was published by Loyola Press, the company I work for. Entitled Sanctuary: Creating a Space for Grace in Your Life, and my signed copy arrived early last week. As I started to read it, the words really resonated with me. From the back cover: “The challenges of daily life take a toll on energy, time, and effort. And the space and rest we need to recuperate – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – is usually pushed to the back burner. What we need is sanctuary, a place and space that allows us to reflect, rejuvenate, and restore. In the midst or reading the introduction, I realized that the author of both books is the same person. Because Soul Gardening was from another publisher, I didn’t make the connection right away.

I love the idea of creating a sanctuary. Although for me nature is where I head, be it my back yard , the mountains, or the seashore, Hershey reminds us that your sanctuary can be a little prayer space right in your own home. Hershey describes sanctuary as follows:

  • Sanctuary makes space- exterior or interior- for my soul to catch up with my body.
  • Sanctuary gives me permission to say no to the need to achieve or to “be on” or to check an item off a list.
  • Sanctuary helps me let go of the need for my identity to be tied to performance or productivity.
  • Sanctuary gives me permission to tend to things that really matter.
  • Sanctuary allows me the permission for soul care and replenishment.
  • Sanctuary is a place where I don’t owe anyone and no one owes me.
  • Sanctuary is a place where I feel at home in my own skin.
  • Sanctuary is a place where I know I am grounding. It connects me to this place and this time. (p. 22)

This has been a long post, but as we begin to anticipate the slower pace of summer, I wanted to recommend both these books to you. I’m still moving through Sanctuary, but it’s a quick read and filled with lots of great ideas on how we can create sanctuaries in the spaces we spend the bulk of our time.

As I continue to get my garden ready for spring and summer, the idea of creating a sanctuary just beyond my back door is high on my list of things to do and dream about. Pictures and thoughts to follow. Let me hear from you about your ideas of soul gardening and creating sanctuaries.


Happy Easter

I’ve never had the chance to see is this painting of the Resurrection by Piero della Francesca, but I hope to one day. Aldous Huxley called it “The Best Picture” when he had the chance to view the fresco in the Town Hall of San Sepolcro. As the guards sleep, Christ lifts himself out of his tomb, looking rather majestic. Historians believe the second guard on the left, deeply asleep and unaware of the epic event happening just behind him, is a self portrait of the artist. I guess he wanted to remind us that we often fail to God’s ongoing activity happening all around us. There certainly is wisdom in that.

I don’t know how the weather is in your neck of the woods, but today, Holy Saturday, has been beautiful. Cold, yes. Windy, yes. But the air feels charged with spring. Yesterday afternoon was gorgeous, and even though it was Good Friday, I tried to start doing a little yard work. There’s much to do after our crazy winter, and it looks like I’ll have to reseed a big portion of my backyard. The snow and ice took it’s toll on my lawn. In the end, it was simply wonderful to be outside again.

Friends, I hope you too are enjoying these first days of spring, which reminds us that new life is all around us, but we have to look for it. In my church tonight, about a dozen children and adults will become Catholic.It’s been a joy to walk with them for the last several months of their journey, and I’m excited for them.

May God bless you this Easter, and let’s pray for each other, shall we? Let’s pray that we might better see God’s ongoing activity in our lives and the world around us.