My husband recently traced my ancestry to England, among Dukes and Lords in the early 1400’s. It gives me a gavel to pound on my passion for gardening. Why I dream of voluminous gardens walled thick alongside mossy stone; their ancient tales whistling in the wind between the eaves.
My heart races to the penned words of Austen, and the circular tales of family and servants living in the hallowed halls of Downton Abbey. Though I long to be one of those ladies strolling along canopied pathways in crinoline and lace – jeans with holes in the knees and faded t-shirts covered in mulch, that is my reality.
As the crocus and daffodils pop their heads above ground for a look around, it reminds me of walks hand in hand with my Grandpa around his gardens in springtime.
How he squats low to point out lilies of the valley and dollar plant along the foundation, reaches overhead to pull off puffy pink flowers atop flat branches of a sprawling mimosa tree.
Our knees spot muddy when we crouch down to inspect fat cheeked tomatoes weighing down spiked vines later in summer. And after morning coffee, the ritual: scattering the grounds around profuse rose bushes, cutting off blooms the size of small cabbages to bring the beauty inside.
And even though I witness lime green leaves unfolding new on sticks every spring as the sun warms the soil from winters chill, I wonder new in the awe of creation. This continual reminder of redemption in chameleon leafed tapestries.
The same kind of awe I experienced one year during Lent.
A few years ago, along with fasting, I added a discipline. I intentionally conveyed the nice things I think about people instead of letting those thoughts drift around aimless in my cerebral hemisphere. In emails, cards, Facebook messages and yes, looking into their eyes, I expressed words of encouragement.
The following year God returned what I did, like a flock of birds carrying love letters to my house on their way home. A surprise bouquet of kind words delivered to my soul all on the same day.
When my husband came home from work, he found me sitting overwhelmed in front of my computer with tears streaming down my cheeks, drenched in subterranean beauty. Just like those plants poking through winter soil to make their grand entrance, grace is an invitation to be beautiful amidst the hardness of life.
And each of us, we all hold the inivitation to beauty for someone.
Have you experienced adding a discipline during Lent? I would love to hear about it.
Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time. Martin Luther
Beauty is so on my mind…with a passion to invite others to see the beauty in lives lived instead of lives masked. Thanks for the spurring on in this post today.
Lisa, I am so right there with you. It sounds like you could preach that message.
you know, everytime you bring up your grandpa, I tear up, for love of my own…just another way we are connected, sister-friend. I was a huge gardener of food and flowers, and I can say because of the time I spent quietly by his side as a child, I never feel closer to God, closer to my core person than with dirt beneath my toes. I have something written about him, but it seems so small in light of all he was that was so big for me…thank you for reminding me of doing such sweet honor through words.
and when I say “I was a huge gardener”, clearly I meant “he” was 🙂
My grandfather was one of the most kind hearts I have known. When I got engaged to H I told him, “Grandpa, I think I just might have found one almost like you.” Without a father in my home growing up, he was the only male role model I had and God blessed me with one of the best. And now I am getting teary just thinking about God’s faithfulness. I just can’t get over how much we have in common Tara.
Beautiful words, M’lady! I would love to stroll the gardens of Downton Abbey as well, but only if I had a staff of gardeners. I love gardens, but not so much the garden-ing.
Love this: ” . . . grace is an invitation to be beautiful amidst the hardness of life.”
“Grace is an invitation to be beautiful amidst the hardness of life” – that took my breath away. Indeed, it is. Beautiful words here. Thank you.
Wow, adding a discipline, such a good idea. Hopefully i will add one that will become permanent. As a huge Austen fan, I loved this post:) And especially this “Grace is an invitation to be beautiful in the hardness of life.”
This is not a “lent” added thing but I decided instead of just writing gratitude for all His gifts, I would speak gratitude with a sincere heart when God prompted.
In Haiti, I looked straight into the jeweled-blue eyes of our young leader who brought me to the place that has captured his heart. I said, “Thank you for bringing me here. Seeing you here helps me understand you in a deeper way and it is a beautiful thing.”
Tears washed over those blue eyes. I wrapped him in my arms like he was my son.
He later told me that one thing–that “thank you”– was the thing that impacted him most on that trip. I was stunned by that. Such a simple thing—to stop, say thank you, mean it.
This place is—you are an– encouragement to me. Thank you, Shelly.
Beautiful inspiring post. One of my Lenten practices this year is writing notes of encouragement to others too. So many people lonely and full of self doubts are left to feel they are traveling by themselves. Great post!
Jean, how fun that you are doing what I wrote about. I actually wrote a similar story in HomeLife Magazine this month. I am amazed at how many people have never thought about adding something as a Lenten practice. And just like your beautiful comment, encouraging words lift the soul.
God seems to have me on a different Lenten Journey this year. He has shown me things I need to give up that I will not be picking back up again. It’s been quite an experience! (but you know this already) 🙂
Beautiful post, Shelly. Thanks for warming my heart.
All for Him,
Nikki, I can honestly say I have never done what you are doing for Lent. Giving up something for good and I am so inspired by that. It will give something new to think about. So very proud of you. That takes tremendous strength. But of course, in light of Christ it probably seems trivial.
To extend that gift of beauty, of encouragement, it just makes me want to melt in the way that He loves us and encourages us to love.
I’ve been working on my 2012 word, cultivate, this Lenten season, but I feel like I am very much still in the weed pulling season!
And you will be even more beautiful that you are now Jen, once those weeds are pulled. You already have such a lovely heart of gold, I can only imagine what cultivate will mean for you.
Simply beautiful. I just love “grace is an invitation to be beautiful amidst the hardness of life”. This Lenten season I am practicing choosing joy intentionally. Even when I am thrown a curb ball, I redirect my heart to Jesus and joy. I am fasting too. And God is preparing my heart to receive His bountiful blessings that are just upon the horizon.
Oh Joan, I love that. Choosing joy – because it really is a choice isn’t it?
You spoke right to me today. I’ve been intending to do things differently this Lent (and failing most of the time) and your encouraging words hit the spot. Thank you X
So glad Deborah-Joy. I think that in our “failing” it is comforting to know that this season is really all about Him and less about us. He loves us through success and failure.
I love this … in edifying others.. focusing on what is right about them… this recovering performance oriented perfectionist… struggles with doing… especially with those who live with me… but I know better and want better… this is a beautiful inspiring reminder…
To offer grace… as “grace is an invitation to be beautiful amidst the hardness of life.” could be the very best gift I can give… love this
Michele, I am also a recovering performance oriented perfectionist . . .that wants it all to be fixed tomorrow please. And truthfully, I have learned about the invitation of grace by living with one who extends it daily – my husband. Thankful that God gave him to me to model what that looks like. Thanks for being so honest. It is so refreshing.
I’d be very interested in knowing what your husband used to trace your ancestry. My son has been begging me to do this for our family. But, it’s overwhelming!
Cristal, we used Ancestry.com and we were amazed at how much we actually found in our family trees. Mine more than his. It was really worth the money for a month or two of searching. We are planning to go to England for our 22nd anniversary in May and visit Muncaster Castle, where my relatives still live. So excited.
“Grace is an invitation to be beautiful amidst the hardness of life”
Such a blessing Shelley! Thank you!
All good things.
Charina, YOU are such a blessing. Really!
This blessed me, thank you.
Denise, thanks for being here friend.
Your words here and in the comment you left on my post are such a blessing. I am always amazed at how God works through each one of us. Thank you for beauty that you are, and the willingness to share from your heart.
Lynda, isn’t this blogging world just amazing. I have found such joy in the online community. Meeting people I never knew about before, encouraged to live fully through the words people pen. It is a pleasure to meet you.
This Lenten season, GOD has added His Heart for the oppressed to my heart. Praying for, reading & writing about, and fighting for them when the opportunity arises.
Connie, that is amazing and so inspiring. I love that. And would love to hear more.
you are a beautiful writer! i love that you added that discipline – something that is so important. i want to try to do that more!
Thank you so much Katie. It is fun meeting you today and looking around your blog.
Loving those flowers… Wonderful. Lent is a wonderful season of rebirth for the soul. Have a great day 🙂
It is a good time to put things in perspective, like those flowers starting new each season. You too, Kathleen, hope you have a great day.
Thank you for this lovely invitation Shelly!
I feel like I’ve been roaming the Garden of Eden amid your words and images.
“A few years ago, along with fasting, I added a discipline. I intentionally conveyed the nice things I think about people instead of letting those thoughts drift around aimless in my cerebral hemisphere.”
This, as they say in our religion, “convicted” my heart. I’ve never added a disciple during Lent, but after reading this, I can’t start soon enough. This may be the most inspiring message I’ve read in awhile now.
Concurrent tears and joy as I read your stirring message!
Oh wow Debra, I am so touched by your comment. It was the first time I thought about adding a discipline too and reaped such joy from being obedient, even when it seemed silly or odd to walk up to someone. I hope that you will find the same as you choose to add a practice during Lent too.
You extend — again and again — that invitation to beauty. Gorgeous pictures here!
I guess that is what I am called to do Jennifer, share the beauty of redemption with whomever He brings. Thank you!
I’m like Nancy. I love beautiful gardens. But God forgot to give me a green thumb.
“And each of us, we all hold the invitation to beauty for someone.” There is beauty here in this space.
The green thumb is genetic I think. My mom and dad, even though they were only married for the first three years of my life, have been known to throw out their backs for the perfectionism in the garden they work so diligently to create. I have learned from them. My back tells me when to stop. Thanks for your sweet comment.
What a beautiful post! Thank you for blessing us with this. 🙂 I love the idea of words of encouragement being like flowers we’re giving to someone. The wonderful thing about the words is that it stays in our hearts!
Sharon, so nice to meet you. And you are right, words last, for good or ill sometimes.