Francine Rivers is by far my favorite author simply because she has a unique way of telling stories and bringing up mundane issues in such a graceful and heart drawing manner.

Leota’s Garden is a story of a woman, in her eighties, estranged from her children, and living by herself.  As a young girl she sacrificed a lot for her family.  When her husband went to fight in World War II, she had to move in with her in-laws and help them financially as her father-in-law, a German, could not get any employment.  She got a job and left her children in the care of their grandmother, who was still under the illusion that her husband was the breadwinner not knowing all along that it was her daughter-in-law, Leota, financially taking care of them and the home they shared.

The grandmother spent her time spewing lies about Leota, telling her grand children that their mother had abandoned them and was living a life of her own.

Leota suffered so much emotional abuse from her mother-in-law.  Her only refuge was her garden, which she hoped her children would help her tend to it one day.  They never did. The children, convinced that their mother had been too selfish, too busy living her own life to care for them while they were young kids, turned their back on her and live their lives.  In an effort to protect her father in law’s dignity, Leota never revealed the truth to her children.

I am always in tears reading Francine stories, but this one affected me a little bit more than usual.  In my life, I have seen many women walking around with baggage of bitterness and resentment that their backs are curved from all the years of pain. This book opened my eyes to how much we hold onto the pain inflicted on us by others like it’s a treasure; yet it is a dangerous poison killing us slowly. We withhold our forgiveness, thinking that we are punishing the culprit, when this whole time we are hurting ourselves.  If we were honest with ourselves, we would see that life is miserable when we are filled with unforgiveness and a hardened heart.

Forgiveness is not reconciliation.  One can actually forgive someone without letting them know.

I recently learned that a friend of mine with whom I haven’t spoken to in a while has had major health issues. Unable to reach out to her because of how we left things, it left me miserable.

Unfortunately that is how Eleanor, Leota’s daughter, felt after her mother passed away. She did not get to apologize and reconcile and the guilt she carried was unbearable.

I know I don’t intend to live like that.  I do not want to go through life regretting the things I said or should have said, regretting to have not reached out to those I should have. Regret is a horrible feeling. I know that for a fact. I do not want to be so consumed by my own bitterness that I don’t see other people’s pain. I want to live life to the fullest especially in relationships. I want to say what I have to say, be present as much as I can for those that I love.  I know that is not easy, but I want to learn to have safe and healthy relationships and friendships that I am not left with an ounce of regret.

Relationships are like a garden, you have to nurture, prune, tend to them in very delicate ways, if you want them to grow and be healthy. Otherwise you will have a garden of rotten fruits fallen to the ground and weed bushes in it.