Whenever I’m in need of some spiritual uplift I come here, to Stan Hywet Hall in Akron Ohio. It is a notable country estate, the former home of F.A. Seiberling, founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. He had the house built between 1912 and 1915 and it now ranks as the 12th largest house in the United States. Stan Hywet Hall is built in the Tudor Revival style and sits on 70 acres of property.
But though I love country houses and this is a very fine country house, I don’t come here to see the house. I come here to spend time in its gardens.
As I enter the gates of this estate I like to imagine I’m leaving earth all together and coming home to heaven, to my heavenly father, just as a college student might leave school for a time in order to rest and revive herself in the presence of family. Living life on this earth is actually a lot like going to school. Here on earth we’re constantly learning and being tested. Hopefully we’re growing in many ways, but it’s not always easy.
In fact, sometimes it’s very hard as it has been this month for me losing my precious doggie, Alexander. He died in my arms on May 13th from old age and because of this great loss I really needed to come here to the garden to spend quiet time with God talking and listening.
Years ago my sister Elaine and I wrote a song. I composed the music and Elaine composed the lyrics. I think of this song whenever I come here to the garden to spend time with God. Let me share the lyrics with you.
“I speak to God, God speaks to me
In silence, soft sweet silence.
He knows I’m here, I know he’s near
In silence, soft sweet silence.
We sit and listen give and take
sharing secrets for love’s sake.
I speak to God, God speaks to me
In silence, soft sweet silence.”
I love to sit in the English garden and talk to God, pour out my heart and then listen for his response by reading from one of my spiritual books, books like “God Calling”. This book was written by two listeners and edited by A. J. Russell. These listeners claim that the messages they wrote had been given to them by The Living Christ Himself. Who is to say just how this could be, but the messages are definitely a spiritual stimulus to me and to many thousands of other people as well.
As I sit looking at the sculpture and fountain in Stan Hywet’s English Garden these words from “God Calling” come to me, “What can I say to you? Your heart is torn. Then remember “He bindeth up the broken hearts.” That is me with a broken heart over my doggie’s death.
I talk to God telling him how I feel as I walk around gazing at all the lovely stonework, the flowers and the plants. Then I sit here to read from one of my spiritual books. I am reminded that “Sorrow may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” I believe this. I know God wants us to be happy and carry on courageously even after we’ve had great loss. We must be strong and brave. With his help I will try to be just that.
I read that God expresses his great love for us through the beauty of nature and as I gaze upon these roses climbing their way up the trellis to the sky my heart leaps up along with them.
I’m told In quietness and in confidence shall be my strength. The quiet and beauty of this garden is comforting and in turning away from the world , tuning to God I feel energized.
I stroll through the Japanese garden and here I am told all is well. The plants are so lovely to behold and the design is so ordered. There is a sense of peace here and that peace runs over onto me. I’m told nature is but the expression of Eternal Thought in Time. The eternal is what matters above all and though this fact can easily be forgotten when out in the world here in this garden it seems quite believeable.
I walk through the Birch alley and I feel so safe as the beautiful trees seem to wrap me in their soft shimmering branches. I would like to stay here forever, not go back to my life outside this garden with its assorted challenges. I don’t quite feel up to them just now but I’m told “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And you know, somehow I believe it.
I enter the rose garden and I’m overcome with the sheer beauty all around me. Though I arrived at these gardens with little enthusiasm for life, feeling sad and downtrodden, the beauty of nature has cheered and inspired me just as it did for the characters in that famous novel, “The Secret Garden” . It’s hard to look at beauty and not feel uplifted just as it’s hard to put a smile on your face, even if it’s forced, and not feel at least a little bit better. I read, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the Glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”
I’m told to look for the beauty in the world and not just look at it, but absorb it and then pass it on to others through a smile or a kind word. I’m told that nature is the embodied Spirit of God’s thoughts of beauty for the world and we can truly live a life not of the earth, but a heavenly life here and now IF we connect ourselves more closely to God. I believe this. I feel this connection here in nature.
It’s easy to feel connected to God here in this garden. It will be harder when I’m back out in the world beyond, but I’m told to keep close to God by reading his words because the “Words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are Life.” Do you read scripture? I will be reading scripture when I return to my earthly home for I love this feeling that I have here in the garden, this very heavenly feeling, and I want it to continue. I’m told to trust in God and the consciousness of Him will maintain this feeling of joy I’m now experiencing.
I leave the rose garden and enter the grape arbor and God says, “Walk with me. I will teach you.” He tells me life is a school and there are many teachers. He tells me we must say thank you on our greyest days. We must be glad all the time. We must rest in Him. We must never be afraid. We must pray more. We must trust Him.
I’m told to ponder the truths I’ve been given and to search and I will find more. The secrets of the Kingdom of heaven are there for us to discover, the hidden pearls of great price. We might live in the world, but we’re really not of the world. We’re meant for heaven. I believe it. Don’t you?
I came to this garden in a dreary frame of mind. I came for help, to reconnect with spirit, and that I did. I still grieve for my precious little doggie, Alexander, but if God created animals for our pleasure and joy I can’t believe he wouldn’t let us reunite with them when we leave this world and move on to heaven for all eternity. I’m hoping I see Alexander again but in the meantime I will not only try to live with joy, I will share that joy with others for I believe that’s what God wants us to do.
My Country Inn “Spiritual” Day was most refreshing. I am inspired to keep the faith and work at enriching it through study, prayer and good works.
But before I leave this heavenly garden I sit here amidst the hemlocks and say this prayer.
Our Lord, with a heart full of new life and enthusiasm
I thank Thee for the beauty found in nature
and all Thy marvelous teachings
which you showered on me
Peace and Joy to you too.