"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD...He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." Micah 4:2

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Old Favorite

There are times when a book sticks with me and characters or circumstances are recalled often as fleeting thoughts or helpers in choices I must make in daily life.
There are books we mark as our favorites and gently pull them off the shelf to dust, tenderly remembering the plot, then carefully return them to their proper place on the shelf, knowing they are keepers and considered treasures for the rest of your life.

Leota's Garden by Francine Rivers is one of those books for me. The yellowed cover's edges curl up from use, a few coffee stains dot the pages, and although it's an old edition, but this simple designed jacket is a beautiful sight. I first read it while caring for my elderly mother-in-law through eight years of confusion. I fell in love with Leota as I read her inner struggles, prayers, and daily concerns for the spiritual well-being of her children. I loved recalling her memories with her and even sided with her in many of her struggles, yet, hoping that I would be as gracious and forgiving if the same trials approached me.
During times when I struggled in giving patient care, I would remember Leota's loneliness and her tears. My heart reached out easier and I understood some of the loneliness my dear one faced daily. I became aware of her losses and began treasuring her memories, valuing the time to listen to her stories and write some of them as they were told to me. Even though I knew she was often confused, I realized her present anxiety was very real to her.
Leota's Garden taught me patience that I may not have had without its shared knowledge.

Then the years of care for my dear beloved Dad were thrust upon me. I chuckled when I recalled Leota and honestly thought that an elderly man wouldn't have the same inner struggles and concerns.

Boy! Was I wrong! My Dad was just like Leota in many ways. He was so concerned about his children and grand children and often questioned if he had done enough to tell them he loved them. He wondered aloud often on whether he had used every opportunity God had given him to live life to the fullest. Had he been a selfish man? Had he squandered anything? Had he shared the Gospel plainly?
He shared some of his fears and how much his helplessness bothered him as he gave up driving, then walking distances, and finally, succumbing to the small apartment we could offer him. The Presence of the Lord became so precious to him and in the early morning hours, I shared moments of prayer that sounded very close to the ones Leota had prayed.
There were times I found him staring off into the gardens of our backyard and wondered if he had some of the same fond memories as Leota's memories. Had he enjoyed the tilling of the earth to see beauty grow?

Years have passed since my care giving days, but while visiting my family on an extended stay, I found this treasured book on my daughter's book shelf. I tenderly pulled it off, held it for a moment, and chose to read it again.
This time, I found my focus on the children, grand daughter, and dear young friends sweet Leota left behind. She had touched each one in different ways through her lifetime, and each had made choices in their relationship with Leota. This time, I fell in love with Eleanor, the little daughter torn by bitterness and misunderstandings. I saw the wisdom of the old professor who encouraged a young man to serve another human before choosing his philosophy. I encouraged the young man to search deeper for life's meaning. I hugged the grand daughter's heart often as I read her prayers and dreams, and I even wanted to work beside her in restoring the Garden and home of her beloved Grandmother.

This book is still a favorite, but this time, I gained new friendships with the other characters who impacted the elderly Leota. It became a new story to me because of the different stage of life I face now. There's no end to books I want to read and I'll always have a cart full of new stories to call favorites, but it was good to read this old treasure. So, I encourage you, dear reader, to pull an oldie off the shelf and read it again.
Do you think it will impact you now as it did years ago? Will you see different opinions and struggles? Will it help you once again through a hard time or happy stage of life or will it remind you why it became one of your favorites?
Leota's Garden has a new cover and is even available on Kindle, and its contemporary topics makes it worth the read over and over again!

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