Today, it's my absolute delight to share a conversation I had recently with Margaret Rose Realy, author of the great new Lenten book, Cultivating God's Garden through Lent (paperback and Kindle).

I so enjoyed your book, Cultivating God's Garden through Lent. How did you come up with the format and idea of it as a Lenten devotional?

The idea did not originate with me. Elizabeth Scalia, who is the editor of the Catholic channel at Patheos (and writes as The Anchoress), had been reading my blog columns. Elizabeth contacted me and asked if I would be interested in writing a book for Patheos Press, a collection of these columns as a Lenten devotional. Elizabeth saw the potential and I followed her lead. I proposed that the book be laid out as a book of reflections instead of a devotional (devotionals usually follow a specific one-page-per format of bible verse, two-three paragraphs, and end with prayer meditation).

I'm a farm girl myself and I love the outdoors and gardening. Your book spoke to me on a lot of levels. I think your book has a lot of applications to the black thumbs among the crowd, though, too. Could you address that? How can non-outdoorsy types relate to your book?

Throughout the Bible, God speaks to us with parables and metaphors from nature. It is in this simplicity of seeking the Creator through his creation that we gain insight. Those of us who are gardeners and farmers often draw easily to these metaphors.

For others, the appreciation of plants and the outdoors is enough to create a desire to draw closer to the peace found in nature, to be still and allow the gift of Presence to penetrate.

What's your favorite part of the book?

That’s hard to answer. How does one choose between their children? The lead chapter about Fasting From was a Lenten activity I undertook a few years ago that for me was very spiritually productive. There are several entries that, when the insight came, I got goose bumps. To name a few: The Lord's Candlestick, A Breezy Day, Chorus of Birds, and Held Aloft.

How do you hope people use and grow with your book through Lent?

My hope is that the reader will realize how ever-present our 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 was the biggest challenge you had writing this book?

The biggest challenge was not in the writing of the book. The hardest thing I had to do was maintain a sense of peace and trust in God’s timing while working with a publisher facing personnel transitions, especially during the final stages of production. I began the process with one director/editor and when he left, reoriented to a second director/editor a few months later. Communication with her began to wane and I learned just days before the book’s launch she had left Patheos because of a family crisis. My book was sadly a month behind schedule; the original launch date would be missed. I was disappointed at having to cancel book signings and other marketing events, and at the same time knew that it was all in God’s hands. Within a few days a conference call took place with two women in production. They hammered out a plan and diligently went about making this book their top priority. Through the final weeks of production I have said many a prayer in gratitude for the Content Administrator’s expertise and perseverance.

What advice would you share from the book as we enter Lent?

That God is ever present and that we only need to place ourselves in his presence. This is a prayer in the book that I feel sums it up best:

Precious Lord, When I forget you are near, let me recall the words of St. Francis de Sales and place myself in your presence: Help me to know that you are all around me in all things, that you are fully in me and your Holy Spirit is diffused throughout my whole body, and that you my God are affectionately gazing at me at all times. Amen.

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Copyright 2013, Sarah Reinhard