I thought I knew, long before Lent started, what my Lenten reading plan would be. (In fact, I went so far as to write about it.) I should have known better, I suppose. The weekend after I “set” that reading plan, I read the brand-new book by Margaret Rose Realy, Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent.
Yes, I read it in one day. Though I highly recommend that you read it, I don’t recommend you read it that way: savor it, instead, for the beauty of its writing and the vividness of its images. Let it walk you through Lent in a way that’s sure to make you look at the world around you in a whole new way.
Margaret Rose Realy was kind enough to agree to an interview, and I think you’ll find that this will whet your appetite for the awesomeness that is her book.
Margaret, tell us a little about yourself.
Growing up I lived near 8 Mile and Woodward, a mile and a half outside Detroit. I was surrounded by cement and steel, railroad tracks, loud trucks, and skinny dogs. I listened to the sounds of tanks rolling down Woodward Avenue when the race riots broke out in 1967, listened to the horror of three assassinations on television, and heard the angry male voices that pierced my world. It was hard to imagine a God in all that, let alone listen for His gentle voice. Still I knew there was something special about roots and shoots, centipedes and chickadees. As a child I believed that God must have liked me a lot to have put so many things to bring me joy in a world so hard and loud. I maintain that that trust in God (though at times barely so) through the many twists and turns through life.
I have a master’s degree in Communications from Michigan State University and am the author of A Garden of Visible Prayer: Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time (FAITH Publishing, 2011) and Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent (Patheos Press, 2013).
I am an Advanced Master Gardener with thirty-five years of experience as a greenhouse grower, garden consultant, and workshop leader. I am also the coordinator of St. Francis Retreat Center Garden Society, a columnist at CatholicMom.com, and blogger about gardening and spirituality at Patheos.com.
What inspired you to start writing?
On and off throughout my life I have kept what would be loosely called a journal. My words were more of a way to sort and order than a chronicling of events. I had never imagined myself to be a writer, having barely passed my college courses in English. I knew I was a gardener with dirty hands and knees, and a college degree would help me find a decent job.
Like millions of others, in 2009 I was unemployed and started to fall into depression and hopelessness. I began to frequent the Adoration Chapel, often journaling while there. I felt called to write about how to help others create prayer and memorial gardens. I had been creating these types of gardens for years. And so the writing journey began.
What is the greatest challenge you faced as you worked on your books?
Self-esteem. I constantly question myself as a writer. As I said before, I am a gardener…who happens to write. I rely heavily on friends with English majors, editors, and critique groups.
It has only been a few years since that day in Adoration when I chose to trust God in His calling me to write. My skill is improving, little by little, as I continue to string words. But I never step too far away from the fact that what I am doing is more about God than it is about me.
What do you hope readers take away from your book this Lent?
My hope is that the reader will realize how ever-present God is in our lives. How His nearness and attentiveness can take our breath away if we allow ourselves to be open. I pray that through daily reading of this little book the reader will learn how to become quiet, allowing the Holy Spirit to enter in and illuminate their hearts.
What challenges do you face as a Catholic, particularly as we enter Lent?
To be free of all anxiety. My greatest challenge is not that I don’t trust in God, it’s that I don’t always trust His timing!
What wisdom did you take away from writing and putting together Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent?
That a publishing editor desires the same things I do for the book: to be good. It was very exciting and enlightening for me to see how, and more importantly why, the editor cut and rearranged my words. It was very similar to how I would go about “editing” a client’s garden: what would grow best here, what needs expanding there, how to convey a sense of connectedness in the whole of it all. I loved the challenge to rewrite and the satisfaction once achieved.
How do you hope to apply that this Lent?
That what I create, once it’s created is no longer mine but ours. It is not my gift to keep.
Sarah Reinhard’s a Catholic wife, mom, and author whose nose is probably in a book if she’s not scraping something off of her shoes. Her latest book is A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism and she’s online at SnoringScholar.com.
Visit Sarah’s blog: http://SnoringScholar.com/
Check out her books: http://SnoringScholar.com/my-books/
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