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My wife and I recently went on a “trip of a lifetime” anniversary adventure to the Loire Valley in France. We had been squirreling money away for years (consequently our tenth anniversary trip occurred on the eve of our seventeenth anniversary – ha!) but it was worth the wait.

Wow! What beautiful country. Each day we biked through fields of sunflowers and vineyards, visited quaint little villages, and marveled at chateaus and their adjacent gardens.

The gardens.

There is a lot that has stuck with me about this trip, but nothing as much as these gardens. Every blade of grass manicured, every plant curated, the entire landscape crafted together like a work of art – it takes dozens of workers who dedicate their lives by giving not stop attention to keep these living masterpieces in shape.

I remember standing at the edge of Catherine de Medici’s astonishingly beautiful garden at Chenonceau, looking off to the right to the unmanicured wilderness just beside it and thinking about what had made the difference.

I noticed the ants that were annihilating this one section of Mary Antoinette’s garden of Trianon. We are always under attack aren’t we?

I thought about my own house – how much I hate mowing the lawn – how I do just enough to prevent the judgment of my neighbors.

I thought about how this half acre that my wife and I have purchased is the one half acre in this universe that we are personally responsible for.

I thought about how Adam and Eve were asked to take care of the Garden of Eden. I thought about how hard that must have been, but also what a privilege! To be a co-creator with God…wow.

Which got me thinking again about my own half acre of the universe…

What if I made this half acre reflect the beauty of our Lord? What if that was my calling? To cultivate what God has given me. To co-create with him.

At the end of Voltaire’s famous work, Candide, he concludes that ultimately, for each one of us, our role in this universe is to “cultivate our gardens.” I remember not liking his conclusion. It seemed so small, so insignificant. I’d rather change the world, thank you.

But as I sit here looking out over the browning grass of my front yard, I wonder how much the world really would change if I embraced Voltaire’s advice – if you and I decided to cultivate our gardens – to cultivate our lives – and make them beautiful.

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Ned Erickson

Ned is the Founder and Executive Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows, a non-profit dedicated to equipping people to live seamless lives as they grow into the men and women they were created to be. He is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed novel Clay. He, his wife, two children, dogs, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, and chickens live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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