Lessons from the Garden I

#1 – Shame!

Let’s start with the biggest punch in the guts … no point in building up to a big finale when you don’t know where the journey will take you!

When I say that the garden was transformed “through the skills of a team of guys” … what that actually translated as was: a friend of ours … from Paul’s running club … in the middle of lockdown … started a gardening business.

He was picking up work … filling his diary … growing his team … building his portfolio! As you would expect with a new business some of that that was coming through his existing network of contacts … friends … family … and, yes, running club pals!

You see exactly where this is going, don’t you?!

When Paul suggested that we use them to do the work a little bit inside of me died! Well, actually … if truth be told … probably quite a large part of me died!

Yet a glimmer of hope remained … I knew this guy would only perform quality work … and quality comes at a price … so my hope was that the quote for the work would throw the “let’s help a friend grow his business” plan out the window …

… we could merrily take ourselves off to the “Dundee Trusted Trader” website … and find someone cheaper to tackle the wilderness …

… but more crucially find someone unknown to us … and unknown to anyone we did know!!

But … no … the price came in within budget … and was comparable to the “going rate” for garden work like this … YES … of course I got Paul to check that out!! When bits of you are dying on the inside they don’t go down without a fight!

Typical … where are the big price tickets when you need them??!!

Some people don’t like hanging their underwear on the line … others have taken their phone to the toilet during a Zoom meeting unwittingly with audio and camera still connected … others have fallen face first in front of their boss … others have walked around all day with their skirt tucked into their pants …

… this was my version of humiliation about to land on our doorstep … LITERALLY!

And then on the run up … there was banter in the running club Facebook group … that went like this:

There was no offence intended and none taken at the banter … it was just banter … given and taken … between friends …

… but there was truth in it … there was shame being carried … and that was only too real.

Shame is a destroyer … and it can have very deep roots.

A LONG time ago I once heard someone say that you only needed to look in a christian’s backyard (garden) and it would tell you how well they would look after the things that God had given them to steward.


That thought became like an inner voice of shame within me. Regularly as I passed through, or looked at the garden, I could hear the loud whispers of that voice of shame taunting me.

I do not believe that my lack of gardening prowess (or effort) in any way reflects how I look after other things in my life … but the voice of shame takes no prisoners and accuses nonetheless … and sometimes viciously so!

Shame can bring a disconnect and even cut us off from relationships … in both simple and much deeper ways.

There were friends and family who I would dread the thought of dropping in … rarely (if ever) would I invite them … all much to the applause of my inner voice of shame. They would … after all judge my ability to love and care for them based on the state of my garden … especially the good gardeners … they were the worst and would of course judge me more … or so the voice of shame would tell me anyway.

The voice of shame is a liar … but it is a persuasive one.

Well … voice of shame … the garden is RESET … I’m calling time on your toxic whispers and banishing your company. After all, the voice of Truth tells me a different story …

Take me to: Lessons from the Garden – The Back Story

Lessons from the Garden

#0 – The Back Story

This week we pressed RESET on the garden!

It was LONG overdue … but in a season when everything feels to be in RESET mode, it felt timely.

I am always looking to hear what God is whispering to me in the every day ordinary of life … and I know that there is much in this garden RESET journey that I have to hear! So, it seems I may have myself a wee mini series to play with!

The garden came free with the house back when we bought it in 2003! The previous owners confidently told us “the garden looks after itself” … PERFECT! That is our kind of garden!

Over lockdown I learnt a new phrase … “judicious neglect” … had I known that phrase back in 2003 it would have exactly coined what sort of line we would have looked for in the house particulars:

“The house is boundaried by a sizeable walled garden with ample, relaxed, informal planting. The garden showcases rich, vibrant colour in late Spring into early Summer and will thrive best through judicious neglect.”

Over the 17 years that we have lived in the house, we have attended well to the judicious neglect which the garden demanded from us. Woven into that 17 years there have been moments where we have departed from that neglect and dabbled in some planting and maintenance … mainly at the hands of other people – paid and unpaid!!

This week, through the skills of a team of guys, what had become a rambling wilderness of interwoven trees, shrubs, flowers and weeds was transformed into a low maintenance clean slate (well chuckie actually!) of a garden.

Space for the new … with a few remnants of the old!

So where this mini series will take me I have no idea … I do know that there a few things bubbling about within in me about it all … but this, for now, sets the back story!!

And I guess it needs some before … and after … or perhaps more correctly so far! … pictures to bring that back story to life!

Canal -v- Munro

Comparison is the thief of joy.

A year ago, this weekend, I walked 100km (62.137 miles) along the canal paths between Glasgow and Edinburgh … in one go … we set off on the Saturday morning and arrived on the Sunday!

This week I climbed a Munro … Ben Lawers … the 10th highest mountain in Scotland!

There was, however, the small matter of Beinn Ghlas – a second Munro (rather inconveniently!) in the way … so we actually climbed two Munros!! 3,100 feet of climbing to a final height of 4,027 feet … 4 miles up … 4 painful miles back down!

It felt like a tenth of the distance for ten times the effort!

Last year I was sore and tired … this week I think I am broken!! Well … apart from my vocal chords which are not broken and are voicing their objection (quite loudly!) to each movement that I have made over the last two days!!

A year has brought a lot less fitness … a lot more weight … lockdown feet that haven’t been walking for months … so, so many reasons to why my body is objecting strongly to being put through its paces!

Walking with mountain goat daughter and husband it was easy to feel like the ‘fat girl at the back‘!

Last year there was never a point where I thought I wouldn’t get to the end of the 100km … this year when I saw the summit of Ben Lawers there was a part of me that wanted to say ‘I can see the top … that’s close enough … that’ll do!‘ But I knew that I would have been denying myself that sense of achievement … that third Munro bagged … the view that I knew would be spectacular … and most importantly lunch (which was already at the top) and a promised cup of tea!

I’m not sure which of those factors motivated me the most to press on to the top … but had I realised then that I had left the teabags back at the holiday lodge I may just have stayed put and waited for the mountain goat duo to come back down and just meet me where I was! Who knew that hot watery milk actually tastes alright after you’ve worked hard for it!

We can be well aware that comparison with others is often not a helpful, or healthy, thing … but sometimes it is a comparison with ourselves that is the most destructive.

Comparing ourselves to how we used to be … our expectations of what we would like to be … our hopes of what we might want to achieve … can all really steal the joy of the moment that we are actually experiencing … or harder still can stop us even pursuing those experiences.

If I had been choosing the route I would have chosen something much more ‘achievable’ … something flatter that I knew I could achieve comfortably.

But … sometimes … we need to be pushed out of our comfort zones so that we can get to the end of the day and be able to say ‘I’m proud of me!’

Sometimes … it is other people who know that we can stretch ourselves just that little bit higher … push that little bit harder … go that little bit further … sometimes it is in trusting them that our internal voice of self comparison is silenced … and we find that we are able do what we weren’t entirely convinced that we could.

I might have been the fat girl at the back …

… BUT …

I climbed two Munros … in one day … I saw the most spectacular views … I had a splendid day with my mountain goat companions …

… and I have walked from Glasgow to Edinburgh … in one go …

… no comparison required … no joy stolen …

… they are both achievements in their own right …

… and I can be proud of achieving both!

Sometimes we need to tell ourselves the truth … and choose to believe it!