A mysterious garden hidden behind a high brick wall, a key stashed away in a forgotten room, and a young, bored and curious girl set the stage for an exciting and engaging story. My favorite childhood novel was Francis Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden. I think at the time I was drawn in by the mystery of the secret and my fascination with wild, unkempt English gardens. That must explain the state of my own yard today!

secret garden naiwe great books

My mother was an avid member of the local Garden Club and even involved me in some of the youth flower arranging competitions. I think these activities nurtured in me a love of growing things, as I always had flowers on my windowsill while I was growing up. Nonetheless, I dreamed of the day when I, too, would have a large expanse of garden to till and plant and watch with joy as the beautiful mass of color burst into life with the warm winds of spring.

Alas, by the time I had such space to enjoy, the responsibilities of every day life had crept in to steal my time and prevent my enjoyment of reckless abandon in the garden. So, while I love The Secret Garden I think I also envy Mary Lennox, who has the time and space to toil endlessly in the garden and then to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

She is also able to lure her chronically ill cousin Colin out of doors and he discovers the healing power of the garden. I can relate to that power –  there is no quicker way for me to release tension and feel utterly relaxed than for me to spend a few minutes puttering in my garden.  A case of the blues can be cured rather quickly by a few minutes in the sunshine and a freshly picked bouquet of flowers.

There were life lessons to be learned from the story as well.  People are not always as they first appear, keeping secrets can be detrimental to the healing of the soul; and in gardens, as in life, hard work  leads to more beauty whereas neglect and apathy eat away at the soul.

As the gardener reminds the children, “Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”  What a perfect philosophy for life : focus on nurturing the beautiful aspects of your life and there will be little room for the pain.

This post was written for the Great Books Week Blog Tour

I am amazed and humbled by the responses I have received regarding my post Jesus in the Dishes. Incidentally, it won Honorable Mention in the Falling for Jesus contest for which it was originally written, and it was republished on www.blissfullydomestic.com.

Depression is the “silent killer” of many marriages, often without either party knowing the root cause of their struggles. Talking about mental illness is still taboo in many circles, which only compounds the problems for those caught in its snare. Because depression is so isolating and we felt so alone in our battle, we did not realize the impact that our story would have on others. Writing about that time in our lives has been therapeutic and we are now better able to express what we could not even put into words two years ago. Today’s post is in my husband’s words, written about a year and a half after we first saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Once upon a time, I dreamed of marrying the perfect girl.

When I married her, I realized she was not perfect, and sometimes I wondered if I should have waited for someone else.

We had children, and they were bright and shining beings who had been entrusted to us, and us alone. And I knew that we were the right parents for them, and I was content.

Then the dark storms came for me, and I could do nothing for myself. She cared for me, suffered with me, and beat her heart against the dark wall surrounding my soul.

When the storms had passed, I found that she was still beside me, tattered and torn. Then I knew that she was indeed the one I had dreamed of; for she was true, kind, generous, and had sacrificed much of herself for me. I was humbled, and I was more than content – I was grateful.

From her loving husband

What do books, potato peel pie, and Nazis have to do with each other? Plenty, if you are reading the wonderful new novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I never cared much for dry history textbooks, I’m afraid, but give me some good historical fiction and I’ll absorb the history like a sponge. Did you know that the Channel Islands off the coast of England were occupied by the Germans during World War II? Have you ever given much thought to what daily life was like during the occupation? I had not, but got a taste of it all while reading this book. The story is written as a series of letters between the characters, who include Juliet, a young author from London, her publisher, a few friends, and the delightful folks she befriends on Guernsey. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society turns strangers into friends through reading great books together and striving to make the best of a very difficult time. I really felt as if I knew each of the characters and found myself staying up much too late each night to find out how their lives would turn out. It is an easy read and a delightful one -perfect for a quiet afternoon with scones and a cup of tea.