What It Means to Live a Good Story

by | May 23, 2012 | Uncategorized

“If I’m boring you, just flake off,” Patrick says to the crowd following him along the grassy terrace for a garden tour. We giggle over his blunt honesty.  Not a single person turns around and walks away from the 90-year old man with the handmade scarf around his neck, cane in his hand.  The mischievous man that changes his name to Pennington for his wife, moves into Muncaster Castle, gives up a career to cultivate the beauty that envelopes us in a time warp.

He trudges up the pathway, points to the towering rhododendron on the right side of a ravine, says it’s been there since 1866. My mouth drops open in the wonder, like I’m covered in fairy dust.  He stops to touch one of the blooms on another one, tells us the vibrant pink color reminds him of the “psychedelic tidily winks his mother-in-law wore on her ears when she was alive.”

Patrick talks about how he abhors politics and writes poetry to deal with authorities. He stops walking, turns around and recites a poem to the branches overhead. The disparaging rhymes about a troublesome politician raises a few eyebrows.  

And because I ask him to sign his book of poetry beforehand, tell him I am a writer too, he looks at me through the maze of heads throughout the tour, directs remarks toward me about writing as if we know each other long. Then he asks H if he might be interested in taking the pastor’s position at the church on the grounds.

I’ve just met Patrick. Somehow we’re related.  I’ve traveled over the seas to walk the grounds of Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass, England – where I’ve traced my ancestry back to the Pennington’s more than 1,000 years ago.

I wouldn’t miss this garden tour by the man who knows every crevice, branch and bloom on this loamy expanse of beauty that whisper the secrets of life for anything. He’s telling me how to live a good story with every step.

Be Honest

With every joke, innuendo, eyebrow arched comment he reminds me that blunt honesty spoken in love removes the mirage of the perfected life. It helps to define the landscape for all its panoramic scars and imperfections, to remind us of who we are in the deep underground of the soul.

Surpass Your Circumstances

His slow, confident, methodic steps pressed firmly into ancient soil remind that age and circumstance are mutually exclusive to calling. That to live a good story means understanding who wrote it. That there will be hills and valleys along the way, but they don’t change the course written in the book of life with our name on the spine. Even when taking a detour from time to time.

Give Generously

As people parade through his home, see his clothes cloaked over a radiator in the bedroom; interrupt his bowl of pea soup on the picnic table of the public, he responds to each one with dignity and broad smile. To sacrifice time, reputation and privacy for the sake of something greater than yourself is the kind of story that sticks to your skin like honey. It tastes sweet, leaves you longing for more.

Be Confidently You

When I look out the window, over the wide expanse of planted history waving her branches of welcome, I can hardly breathe. Because when I think about those early years of wondering tearful in the bedroom of safety, just outside the smoky room of depravity and empty cans of sorrow, I didn’t know this. That His arm would extend across the seas to show me how to live a good story.  That I have been living one all along.

How do you live a good story? I’m joining the group of writers at Prodigal Magazine to find out how. You can share your story too.

Linking with  God Bumps, Imperfect Prose, WLWW, Life in Bloom, Thought Provoking Thursday

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Barb Raveling

    This is so incredibly gorgeous!!!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing these pictures. I love looking at beautiful gardens. Hope you have a nice rest of your vacation! I look forward to reading future posts.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Barb, so great to meet you. I love gardening, even though I can’t seem to get to mine lately. These grounds were just gorgeous. I took so many photos it was hard to choose for this post. Hope you’ll come back and join the conversations here.

  2. Michele-Lyn (@lifesurrendered)

    Oh my gosh… your pictures are absolutely breathtaking… oh my! Your story and truth… “I love this With every joke, innuendo, eyebrow arched comment he reminds me that blunt honesty spoken in love removes the mirage of the perfected life.”

    I love this, because God is working ever so gently and lovingly to remove the scales from my disillusioned eyes about the “perfect life”… falling into grace more and more everyday 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Aww, thanks Michele. I had so much fun taking these photos. And I admire your words about the perfect life. The clouds are moving off on that for me too. The sun is coming out on the beauty of my scars.

  3. Debra El-Ramey

    Oh Shelly, how glorious! How to live a good story with every step is unforgettable. And truly, you are living a good story, girl, and a charmed life.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      He inspired me with every step of that tour, just being himself. And a charmed life? I’m not so sure. Thanks for visiting Debra.

  4. Joan


    You have shared a lot of wisdom. How incredibly blessed you are to have met Patrick. And yes, you are living a good story.

    Again, the photos are beautiful.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      That question, “How do you live a good story,” was a good one to ponder. Thanks Joan.

  5. Sharita

    How wonderfully sweet! Love this… Such a good story (literally) and awesome guidelines on how we can live a good (scratch that, great) story of our own. So glad I stopped by!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Sharita, glad you stopped by too. I think we all have something to learn from those who walk before us and still find joy in the goodness of the ordinary.

  6. Dea

    So funny that I had wrote you about the old lady that took me on a valley tour of my ancestors home 🙂 You know I love this. I love this person you describe so vividly and I love that his life speaks so loudly on how to live. (The old lady is a writer too. She wrote a legend about an white azalea that sits among the red ones on a high mountain pass.) So enjoying your posts from your trip. Bless you my friend.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I thought you would like this one Dea. And yes, so awesome how you told me about your experience when I already had this one going to share. God is good, the way He brings people together. You bless me big friend.

  7. caallyn

    Hey Shelly,
    great picture of you and Patrick.
    We are still in Ethiopia awaiting a swift return of Bekele’s visa for Canada. I am thankful for your blog writing as i sit at a small desk from the SIM guesthouse we are staying at. This has been my/our community these past weeks as we continue to wait. Please continue to pray for this visa to come so that we can join Neil back in Canada. I am missing my home and husband very much.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh my goodness, can’t believe you are still there Celeste. I went to the website and saw the photos but haven’t had time to read all your posts. I can’t seem to catch up since returning from Europe. Praying for and been thinking about you daily. Thanks for stopping by, it is so great to hear from you.

  8. kd sullivan

    This is so beautiful…and the colors on those hills! They make my heart sing! I am so blessed that you were able to experience such beauty first hand.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You have such a generous heart Kim. Glad I could share all the beauty with readers.

  9. Nancy Franson (@nancyfranson)

    I want to be Patrick when I grow up! Thanks so much, Shelly, for taking us on a walk with him. That he knows the age of the rhododendron just gave me shivers.

    I heard a talk once–I think it was Andy Crouch–who cited the number of blogs listed on the internet. Somehow he had found out that of those out there, most bloggers publish an average of two posts before calling it quits. Seems they had nothing of substance to say. He said that in order to tell a good story, you’ve got to live a good story. You (and Patrick) are doing both.

    So, is H thinking about taking the job? 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Wow, what a compliment. Thank you Nancy but right back atcha my friend. Living for Jesus is a wild adventure fun to tell isn’t it? And the answer is no about the job, H laughed when he asked him. I hope to be like Patrick when I grow up too. Was actually thinking that very thing on the tour.

  10. toshowthemjesus

    The pictures are amazing. It makes me want to go back to England again. The rich history and stories there are amazing. I love your connection with the place. And what a sweet man! He’s the kind of tour guide I could listen to for hours, mesmorized by every story. Thanks for sharing!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      They make me want to go back and I just got home! 🙂

  11. Jillie

    Hey Shelly…I am new to your post and enjoying them immensely! One of the most beautiful posts going out there. Your photos are stunning. No kidding…I could just cry looking at them. And your words touch my heart. I have always wanted to visit England. My Gram was born in Devon and came to Canada at the tender age of 16. She never returned to her homeland, but her brother and sister came here to visit her after over 40 years of separation. As a young girl, I was enthralled with their accent and their talk of England. My brother and his wife went on their trip of a lifetime, to England, last October. I was so envious, and wanted to stow away in their suitcase. I will never be able to afford such a trip, but through your blog, I am living vicariously through you. :o] Thank you for your touch of beauty in my life today!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So glad you are visiting and joining the conversation, thrilled really. Feel like you just told a story of your own regarding your Gram and I hope you get to visit England some day. Glad you were inspired by the photos!

  12. Beth

    Living a good story. I resonate with that sentiment. That’s what I want to do and have been striving for. Thanks for the beautiful reminder that was “told” by you and your new friend. Beautiful pictures too, Shelly!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s a good thing to ponder isn’t it. So glad I stumbled on to the prompt. It made me think about living well.

  13. brian miller

    very cool…i like the learnings you gleened from him…and he sounds like quite the character himself…some great shots as well…very cool trip…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Character is a good word for him, he was so delightful actually.

  14. stephprecourt



  15. happygirl

    Such a good story. Enjoy your trip. It sounds wonderful. And you pictures, breathtaking. 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m back now and we did enjoy it very much. Thanks!

  16. r.elliott

    We are neighbors today at Emily’s…my heart’s deepest desire is to live a good story…that my children will be able to read and see a life given over to Him and His leadings…opened to all He has…even when it is uncomfortable. you told this beautifully…and I love seeing your gorgeous pictures from your trip. blessings as He continue to write upon our hearts~

  17. dukeslee

    All that BEAUTY! Breathtaking color and texture here. Thank you, too, for your helpful points on living our stories. “Be confidently you” really resonates with me. Well, they all do actually. Thank you for the gift of your words.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I don’t even think I captured the beauty I was seeing in real life. It was breathtaking everywhere I looked. And don’t you think it is a gift to see someone confidently living their life and not needing to be like everyone else?

  18. Jody Lee Collins

    Shelly, so , so beautiful. It’s amazing to me what God can show us when we are looking and listening. And how powerful to feel the touch and connection across all those years and miles.
    What a blessing for you.

  19. HopeUnbroken

    absolutely beautiful! and i love the rhythm with which you weave your story. just captivating, all the way around 🙂

  20. Kara

    beautiful post and beautiful pictures and what good words of advice!!

  21. wynnegraceappears

    Beautiful photographs that help pick me up and take me to “there”and your words, they helped too. Your ability to connect with people and your love for them is so beautifully apparent in this post. Shelly, a stranger to you does not exist. You are brave and friendly all wrapped up into one terrific writer and teller of story. And you live a mighty good one to. Peace to you my friend….

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I have learned from observing people for as long as I can remember Elizabeth. Humbled by your words here, thank you.

  22. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    These photos are nothing short of stunning! Pictures and word paintings that make me quite teary-eyed because of the beauty in them. I love people like this man – older people touch my heart so much. I recently worked a few weeks with an elderly woman who put me in awe. Just loved listening to her stories, seeing her spunk in her late 70’s and how she still wants to be doing doing doing… like apparently Patrick does. Because they have so much to give. Thanks for sharing your stories. I do so hope I get to England someday, but in the meantime its stories like yours that transport me there 🙂 Must be the artist/writer in us that makes England shine in our hearts before we even get there…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I hope to inspire people like Patrick inspired me, don’t you feel that way too? It blesses me to know you were inspired here, its all His amazing grace adn I am so grateful.

      • Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

        Yes, I do! 🙂 The cry of my heart… especially in my writing. You’re right, it’s all His amazing grace and anointing of our words. Sometimes people have misunderstood and thought I was trying to “teach” when all I really want to do is encourage and let God use it to touch others somehow… Your words on my blog blessed me too.

  23. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    I forgot to say… I love Patrick’s face. Doesn’t look as old as he is, and such a sweet face. You can see it in his eyes, a dear man.

  24. ljbmom

    This makes me so happy. There is hope, then? Patrick is my hero, I think. 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, hope. Always hope. I think he is mine too.

  25. Emily Wierenga

    He’s telling me how to live a good story with every step.

    girl, i love this. i love the bond that writers share. it’s such a lonely profession, and when you finally get to talk to someone who gets it, it’s like drinking a long cold glass of water… and you never want it to stop.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I love the way you put that Emily and I never really thought about it that way but you are so right. It can be a lonely place, this being a writer, isn’t it?

  26. Sandra Heska King

    This just gives me goosebumps. That His arm would extend across the sea to show you that you are part of a good story, that you are living a good story. You are beautiful. You know that?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Aww, thanks Sandy. I think you’re pretty awesome too.

  27. elizabethfstewart

    This made me want to meet Patrick too. A beautiful post in every way.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Muncaster Castle responded to my tweet saying they love the post. Can’t think of a better compliment. I hope he read it.

  28. Brianne

    This is a beautiful story filled with gorgeous photography. I love what you’ve shared here, from all you learned through this experience and more. “It helps to define the landscape for all its panoramic scars and imperfections, to remind us of who we are in the deep underground of the soul.” is the quote that speaks to me the most through all this. Thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Brianne, so glad you stopped by and left a comment. It blesses me.

  29. Laura @ Pruning Princesses

    Old men who love life delight me. And old couple who love each other thrill me. And the pictures, I trust you so I believe they are real. Amazing.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yep, they’re the real thing Laura. And I loved your post today btw, you need to get Facebook and Twitter share buttons girlfriend. That’s some good stuff to share.

  30. Jill

    This week I posted a comment on my brother’s blog http://www.300wordsaday.com about how I feel like a comma in a story and I want to be a connecting word. My brother and I are both readers of Donald Miller and loved his Million Miles book that focuses, of course, on story. The beautiful part of thinking in terms of story is that regardless of whether a story has the words THE END printed at it’s conclusion or not, we know that stories live on, and that should inspire us to keep living. Just a thought 🙂 And, oh yes, your photos are PHANTASTIC! 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I am a Donald Miller fan too. Read Blue Like Jazz and gave away more copies than I can remember. I liked Million Miles too and yes, it is our hope that our stories will outlive us, that they will be good stories that inspire. Love your thoughts here and thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment and engage in conversation.

  31. tereasamansfield

    What a lovely experience. I think I would have enjoyed him!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You would have Teresa, his generous spirit just draws you right into the history surrounding him.

  32. Ramblings by Carol Nuckols

    You certainly lived (and told) a good story here, filled with love and beauty. What an experience! As a writer and traveler through life, I’ve lived a lot of stories, and written a lot more, with more to come.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It was an experience I will treasure forever, so grateful. Thanks for stopping by Carol.

  33. Lyn Cooke

    This is so inspiring Shelly! I’ve traced our family back to a castle in Scotland. It’s on my bucket list of places to visit one day. Such beautiful writing…pure delight.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, I hope you get to go Lyn, its so incredibly beautiful. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Its nice to meet you here.

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