Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

***Unfold your own myth.***

I hope you will go out and let stories,

that is life, happen to you, and that

you will work with these stories . . .

water them with your blood &

tears & your laughter till they bloom,

till you yourself burst into bloom.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Sunday, 10 July 2016


Where is the wisdom we 
have lost in knowledge? 
Where is the knowledge we 
have lost in information?
 ~T.S. Eliot, (Merton College Oxford)
'Choruses from The Rock'

I don't know if you've noticed it or not, but the world out there is a little bit crazy. Ok, a lot crazy--and very scary. I know I'm not alone in saying there are days that I feel shell-shocked. The events that have been taking place in the two countries I love best, Britain and the U.S., have left us all feeling wobbly and confused. Relentless news, videos, and verbal analysis of it, as it unfolds second by second, leaves our nervous systems shattered. The impulse to escape the din of information is a strong one, and the never-ending noise makes you want to run for the hills and never come out again.

The hills of mid-Wales always beckon,
a tempting escape from the world.

Our big, old, Lutheran church in
Beloit, Wisconsin. Us 4 PKs
had the run of it. One time I
even discovered our Sunday
School choir director kissing
someone they shouldn't have.
Oh, the 1950s!!
It's also where I first felt the
feeling of sanctuary.
Escapism is a very attractive option--escaping to malls, movies, shopping, eating, drinking, but they aren't healing things. They just drown out the noise for awhile, so you can forget. What I'm looking for these days is sanctuary.

Growing up I knew of only one sanctuary, the church sanctuary, the place people retreated to on Sunday morning. Because we were the 'PKs' (pastor's kids), we had access to the church sanctuary at other times too. Times when it was empty, quiet, still and cool. That's the sanctuary that became embedded in my heart with a cool, stillness--like an unruffled pond in the evening. And that's the kind of sanctuary I still seek out.

*Sanctuary has its roots in the word
sanctuarium--or a place to keep
holy things, like relics. Through
time it's also come to mean a place
of safety and of refuge.

.....for behold, the kingdom of
God is in the midst of you.
~Luke 17:21

If we only had eyes to see and ears to
hear and wits to understand, we
would know that the Kingdom of God 
in the sense of holiness, goodness,
beauty, is as close as breathing.....
~Frederick Buechner

Through the years, as I've learned to seek the Kingdom within, I've also discovered the larger sense of sanctuary. It's a place that's deeper than an escape, more holy than a retreat. It's not hide-out, but a place to recover and renew. A place for your soul and the world to come to grips with one another. A place to hear the quiet and listen for the peace that surpasses all understanding.

.....have a mind so quiet, that you
can hear doves whispering as
they rest their wings in the rafters
of your silent sanctuary.
~Kate Mullane Robertson

In fact sanctuary is so important to me, a committed introvert, that I established my Oxford sanctuary months before we even occupied our home. We moved over from the U.S. to Oxford (which is Stuart's hometown), in June of 2008. Unfortunately we couldn't take over the B&B until late October of that year, which meant I had four full months at loose ends. I didn't have access to the house, but luckily we were given keys to the garden and the little summerhouse.  While we waited on hold to begin our new life, I began work on our garden and turning the summerhouse into my little sanctuary.

The garden I inherited in 2008.

During those four months, as Stuart did his walking tours during the day, I walked Oxford, dug out the garden, and transformed the empty, little summerhouse into a place of respite and calm in the middle of a very busy city.

Our garden has always been our private place,
just for Stuart, the dogs, the chickens and I,
which makes it feel like a place set apart.
Through the gate, up the stairs,
and into the heart of my heart.

We should seek not so much to
pray as to become a prayer.
~St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis found his place first of all,
having travelled the thousands of miles,
down the west coast of America, through
the Panama Canal and then across
the pond to Britain in a 40ft container.
My Francis, my intrepid voyageur.

A summerhouse is any little shed, building, structure tucked into
a British garden. It's used during the "warmer" months of
summer. A place to be outside, but out of the rain, or to enjoy
the long summer evenings.

The summerhouse is tucked into the back corner
 of our garden and when I sit in the chair, I look
out onto the dreaming spires of New College.

New College from the summerhouse.
Within you is a stillness
and sanctuary to which
you can retreat at any
time and be yourself.
~Hermann Hesse

Inside there's a comfy chair for reading,
dreaming, or sometimes just taking deep
breaths after an especially stressful morning
and breakfast. In the corner I have a little
 cupboard that was brought over with us,
full of gardening books and treasures.

My family nickname is 'Carrots', so my
sis always makes sure I have a bunny
with a carrot wherever I land.

Every time I dig in our garden I find buried
treasure and these are pieces of broken pottery
I've found over the last few years. There used
to be three little cottages that ran the length 
of our garden, torn down in the 1920's.
There isn't much that remains of them
except a stone wall, a flagstone floor (where
the chicken coop sits), and best of all, buried
treasure. I dig up pieces of slate roof, door hinges,
buttons, and little pieces of pottery, most
of it lovely transferware. I've saved every small 
shard and may do something with them one day.
For now though, it's just a beautiful little
collection, each piece with a hidden story.

Digging for buried treasure, laying just
beneath the surface of our garden.

Many of the little treasures may not seem like
much, but they're things I brought when we
moved over, all lovingly packed up and shipped.
They've graced my gardens and sunrooms in
Washington state through the years and are
all intrepid travellers, making the journey
across the ocean. Each one has been like an
old friend and helped ease the homesickness
as I adjusted to my new life.

It is in our idleness,
our dreams,
that the submerged truth 
sometimes comes to the top.
~Virginia Woolf

I collect vintage flower and herb books--some just for fun and some to inspire me. I also keep stacks of magazines by my chair, so I always have something to read during those unplanned moments of quiet that come along. 

'Green Thoughts' by Eleanor Perenyi is one of my favourite books about gardening and a writer's life. It's one I can pick up and read over and over again.

Outside the windows my garden
grows with patience and love.
It's my heart, in flower form.

Life is too deep for words,
so don't try to describe it.
~C.S. Lewis

Birds stop by for a little tea party.....

....and the girls scratch & peck out in the sunshine.


I do not understand how anyone
can live without one small place
of enchantment to turn to.
~Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

So that is my little sanctuary, tucked inside a secret garden, tucked inside the city of Oxford, tucked inside the heart of England, tucked inside Britain. But please know this. A sanctuary doesn't have to be anything more than a tiny corner of a home or garden. I've had sanctuaries in a small, two bedroom duplex, as well as in the middle of a 5 acre farm. Wherever we create a little piece of our heart to retreat to becomes holy ground, a safe haven; a place to keep our soul's treasures and the holy relics of our lives safe.

The world is a topsy-turvy place right now, swiftly shifting and changing underfoot, so it's easy to lose our balance. Seeking sanctuary for ourselves is like putting our own oxygen masks on first--giving ourselves deep, long breaths of restorative air so we can turn to the person next to us and say, how can I help? How may I serve?

It's also a way to seek joy for ourselves, sitting in sanctuary. So often I think we all suffer from survivor's guilt. With all the sadness in the world, what right do we have to be happy? To seek out joy? Well, we have every right and all the best people say so......

The beating heart of the
universe is holy joy.
~Martin Buber (Philosopher)

The gloom of the world is but a shadow;

behind it, yet within our reach, is Joy.
~Fra Giovanni
(Italian friar, architect, antiquary,
archaeologist, and classical scholar.)

Joy is the infallible sign

of the Presence of God.
~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
(Jesuit priest, philosopher &

A joyful heart

is good medicine.
~Proverbs 17:22a
(Principally written by King
Solomon, the standard
bearer of wisdom.)

Give yourself permission to seek sanctuary; breathe deeply, unpack your burdens for a bit, look for peace poking in a window here or there, let your heart rest for a moment, and most of all, take joy. Always take joy....and then pass it on.

So we'll live, and
pray and sing,
and tell old tales,
and laugh
At gilded butterflies ...
And take upon us the
mystery of things,
As if we were God's spies.
Shakespeare, King Lear, V 3


  1. I've been looking for another Fawlty Spires. Well stated, Carrie. Thank you for those insights and images. I so agree with you. Those moments of meditation, immersing myself in God's Word each morning on my porch, my sanctuary surrounded by my garden and hidden by my 3 dwarf spruce, journaling the thoughts God speaks to my heart, preparing for my "other" writing . . . those moments anchor me to His truth and provide the balance for all that life is throwing our way right now. They give me the strength for what will come my way, that day. It is serious work, but I love it, and cannot live without it.
    C. S. Lewis says it best, doesn't he: “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (San Diego: Harvest, 1964), 92-93.

    1. This life is all about the joy--I'm a firm believer in starting heaven early. xxxooo

  2. Karen P - Wisconsin10 July 2016 at 21:58

    Ah, Carrie....I love the feeling that the word "sanctuary" evokes in my heart and soul. Thank you for sharing your beautiful sanctuary with us today. Truly a place of respite for you. xo

    1. Thank you Karen and my hope is that everyone can find and create a bit of sanctuary in their life every day. xxxCarrieooo

  3. Your sanctuary is your Heaven on Earth...that is what my little art room is to me <3

  4. Laura B. Jenkins11 July 2016 at 01:55

    I would love to have my own little summer house for a've inspired me to create a little get-away like yours...although, with the Texas weather, I might have to reserve it for fall and winter visits...but, cozy, no less. Thank you for this lovely and beautifully written post..xo

    1. I'm always so happy and pleased when people are inspired here. Thank you for your kind words and hope to see pics of your sanctuary very soon. xxxCarrieooo

  5. Such beauty and encouragement are so appreciated! Thank you for the reminder that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Much needed now. ♡ Love you, Carrots

  6. What a lovely little place out of the wind and rain's way. We must all have a place of respite, to collect ourselves and smooth our ruffled feathers. I love yours. You are truly a kind red spirit Carrie and I am so blessed to have come to know you -even if yet only over the fiber optics. <3

    1. I think all of our Kind Red hearts are connected far more deeply than fiber-optics--they're connected by that lovely golden cord that shimmers with light and love between us all. So happy to have you here too. xxxCarrieooo

  7. You are always full of surprises, girlfriend! What a blessing you are in every way. This post soothes my soul. Yes, the world is a bit nutso right now. I think with 24/7 news coverage and easy access to social media, we are regularly worked into a froth about whatever issue the media chooses to stir us up about. I pull away from it and do puttery things to create my own internal sanctuary since I don't have an actual place to retreat to just now. But without God, our peace is hollow and fleeting. He is the only lasting Peace that we can depend on, and He never leaves us or forsakes us, which is such a comfort. Much love.

    1. Thank you Kimberly and much love from Oxford. xxxCarrieooo

  8. Carrie, this was such a calming post to read this evening! It's such a healing plan to have a sanctuary for retreating. Time to restore ourselves before heading back out into the "storm." You have a gift with words, expressing one's need for sanctuary. Thank you for providing this for me tonight.

    1. So glad you could find some calm and peace here Nellie--and then pass it on. Peace be with you--always. xxxCarrieooo

  9. Dear Carrie,
    Thank you so much for these words. I finally have a moment to read this and it is exactly what I needed this morning. My life is filled with so much right now and I feel like I need my soul to catch up with my body. Sanctuary is what I so desperately need right now. These words especially spoke to me - "Give yourself permission to seek sanctuary; breathe deeply, unpack your burdens for a bit, look for peace poking in a window here or there, let your heart rest for a moment, and most of all, take joy. Always take joy....and then pass it on." I have many blessings right now and many joyful gifts from God but with all the sadness I do feel a bit guilty. I know God has given me this time of joy and he wants me to take the time to really be grateful and "exhaust the little moments". I just need to stop and get off the train for a bit - find sanctuary! I love your way with words. You have spoken to my heart! Thank you and much love from Texas - Lisa Hay (Lollipop Kind Red) xoxoxo

    1. So happy to hear that Lisa--and I'll repeat here what I wrote to you this morning......that our bodies take the fast train everywhere these days while our souls walk a quiet path. Stopping to catch up is how we stay balanced and whole--getting off the train, if only for a few moments. Peace be from Oxford. xxxCarrieooo

  10. Such a beautiful post and your words and images are so comforting. I agree everything seems to be so upsetting now, we all need a place of solitude. I'm lucky that I have a beautiful backyard garden that as my sanctuary ...I visit every day.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to let me know you found this post comforting. I'm so glad you have a place to go for sanctuary--gardens make for the perfect place of solitude, don't they? Take care and know that all will be well. xxxCarrieooo

  11. Dear Friend, taking JOY and passing it on... YES! How I need to take time to rest. Your post is one of refreshment, leading me right to the stream of life. As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee (the true source of... everything).

    Your friendship is like a breath of fresh air Carrie. Thank You. XO Georgie

    1. Dear Georgie ~ Thank you so much for your lovely words, and even more, your friendship. As our sister Julien of Norwich said, know that "all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." Thank you for being here. Love from Oxford. xxxCarrieooo

  12. What a beautiful post. My daughter, who is planning a trip to England next month, pointed me toward your blog because she knew I would love it, and I do! Our garden is our sanctuary in the summer. Living in Michigan the house becomes sanctuary in winter :) Your garden is absolutely lovely. Thank you for sharing it.