A Secret Garden

It’s the most photographed door in St. Augustine.

Red and weathered, standing under a stone arch, it looks as if it could have been around when Ponce de Leon landed in Florida.

It’s my first sight of St. Augustine every year when I arrive for Thanksgiving since the door is just across the street from the inn where I’ve stayed for the past 25 years.

The door is an artist's dream.

Pictures are painted of it. 

Brides stand in front of it. 

I take new photos of it every year. 

{I’ve even used one of the photos on my blog banner.}

But I always thought the gate led nowhere. I wasn’t sure if it belonged to the run-down house beside it or the rather ordinary house on the other side of it.

This year, I took photos of it every day, capturing varying degrees of shadows and light.

And before leaving the inn to head home, I grabbed my camera for some final shots. I waited for a slow-poking tourist couple with their fanny packs and cameras to move along so I could shoot my photos. 

They gazed at the door for so long I started to get impatient when I saw the man push open the door. 

How brazen! Didn’t he know it was private property? 

For as long as I’ve been visiting St. Augustine, I have never seen the door open.

I watched him take a few steps in, then back out, shut the door and finally walk away. 

It never occurred to me to get that close to the door before. I always took my photos from a safe distance, but now that I saw that audacious daredevil tourist {I'm pretty sure he was pushing 80} do it, I was infused with a bit of bravery.

Here was my chance.

I ran across the street and peered through the iron grate.

To my surprise, I glimpsed beautifully manicured pathways that weren’t visible at all from the street. 

My niece Devon grabbed my camera and laid on the ground to shoot a photo through a hole in the planks near the ground.

All these years, I had no idea there was a hidden garden behind the door. I’d never gotten close enough to see it.

It takes a long time to uncover the hidden secrets of God. 

He is like a treasure that I have to go deep to unearth. Layer by layer, the experience of knowing him just gets richer.
I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. -Is. 45:3
He is not in a hurry. He can’t be rushed to reveal himself. 

From the baby we adore at Christmas, to the savior we exult at Easter, and the king whose return we await, this God-yet-man has countless facets to his character that takes days turned to decades to know. 

When we get next to him and offer him the best part of ourselves -- which can only be accomplished with great effort, dedicated time and gritty determination -- then his whisper is like a secret we savor.  

He has invited me to come closer, then steered me on a new footpath, sometimes urging me to keep up with him, sometimes asking me to wait on him, but always accompanying me, never leaving me alone.

When I get close enough to his heart, hoping for a glimpse of how he sees me, that’s when I discover him, hidden, yet waiting for me. 

He invites me to share my secrets with him, promising to hold them all very close to his heart. 
You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain. - Song of Solomon 4:12

What would it take to crack open the door of your heart and really get to know God?

Maybe you’re hiding from the adventure God wants to take you on because you fear it’s too big of a risk. 

Maybe you’ve closed your heart to love because it’s not worth risking the disappointment. 

Maybe you fear the future, afraid to leave what’s convenient and comfortable because you're just not sure that God can really be trusted.

Come close enough to really know him. 

That’s the secret. There you’ll find hidden treasures.

As I drove past that old red gate on my way out of St. Augustine, it looked the same as it always did. 

But it seems different to me now that I know what’s behind it. I know its secret.

And I wonder how I could have waited so long to discover it.

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart and Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista. Join me there for posts from my blogger friends!


  1. I love this! I live here and I so love seeing your pictures! I shudder to think of how little I'd know of God if I never opened the door and I'm challenged by your words to open wide and let Him fill. Thank you! Happy to visit today from Holley Gerth.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      What a beautiful city you live in! And so much fun to capture photos! :) Thank you for stopping by and encouraging me with your sweet words today!

  2. I am enamored of that one close up picture through the peep hole... I couldn't stop staring...I stopped there for a good long time imagining what direction you would go with this! Made me think of how we perceive people from far away- never getting close enough to glimpse what's inside them. I love the analogy you gave though of getting close to God's heart... realizing the time it takes to uncover the treasures within His word and inside of us that he so graciously hid there. It's work and it's scary to get close to Him sometimes isn't it? But what a treasure! Here's to savoring his secrets together this Advent season! ♥ xoxo

    1. Heather,
      That door does provide the opportunity for amazing photos, doesn't it? I am with you that the door offered quite a bit of food for thought in so many ways and going down the road with people being more beautiful and complex than they seem would have been a great angle! But for me, it all reminded me of God's mysterious ways with us and how he chooses to reveal himself to us. I love how you put this -- let's savor his secrets together this advent season -- yes and yes!

  3. Oh my. Could this be one of my very favorite posts of yours? Those photos draw me in, your words draw me closer to God. What a blissful combination.

    What a gift you have, Valerie. No wonder you're one of my favorite bloggers.

    Peace, sweet peace, rest and joy are here, mixed in with winsome discoveries and lots of wise faith.


    1. Linda,
      Oh I am so grateful for your beautiful words of encouragement! Thank you for your blessings over my life and for being in my life!

  4. I LOVE St. Augustine. It's so beautiful and old. Such rich history. I laughed when you said the 80 yr. old tourist went through the door, I was thinking, At his age, he doesn't have anything to lose! :) I probably wouldn't be fearless enough to go through either, and what a treasure I would have missed out on. Just like with Jesus. I sometimes wonder what my life would look like if I hadn't given my heart to Him so long ago. Where would I be? What kind of person would I be? I'm glad I don't have to know...

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    1. Alecia,
      Yes! The tourist didn't have anything to lose -- you're so right! I couldn't bring myself to trespass since I didn't want to be yelled at from an unseen window -- but maybe it would have been okay. I'm with you -- so glad we don't have to wonder where we'd be without knowing God --it's hard to even imagine!

  5. Hi Valerie. I've been to St. Augustine several times, our daughter lives in Jacksonville, but I've never seen that door. However....now that I know....Great analogy you made with your experience of not going deeper and the treasures we find when we do. Just great. Thanks!

    1. Hi Debby,
      You'll have to go see the door the next time you visit! It's on Marine St. and Bridge St. not far from OC White's if you know where that is. Thank you so much for your kind words here!

  6. Oh Valerie, how exciting to find a secret garden! It reminds me of the book and movie. And as always, you always manage to find a spiritual lesson in it. :) "He is like a treasure that I have to go deep to unearth. Layer by layer, the experience of knowing him just gets richer." There is so much of Him we have yet to discover, isn't there? I really love the verses that you share with it, too! May we together discover more and more of His riches! Hugs!

    1. Hi Trudy,
      I LOVE the book and the movie! Isn't it the best? Oh may we together share more of his treasures and rich love for us -- that is just a delightful thought, my friend! xo

  7. Valerie- I love this post :) It is very in keeping with what God has been speaking to my heart- inviting me to the secret places with Him; to share my heart and let him love me there. I love the pictures you took- Thank you for your beautiful thoughts and verses and for urging me on towards more of Him! (theres so much more isn't there!! :) !!xoxo

    1. Hi Susie,
      I missed a post from you this week! :) I love those verses, don't you? I feel like God pulled my notice to them and they are so beautiful. I think God loves to show us his secrets but we have to be willing to pull up close to him! xo

  8. What a wonderful post Valerie. I love how you tie everyday life into the spiritual. My husband & I took a quick drive through St Augustine on the way to Orlando last June & it is our list of places to go for a getaway. I hope to see this door when we do go.

    1. Patti,
      Oh you'll have to take more time to explore St. Augustine next time and do go by and see the door! There are so many nooks and crannies there to enjoy! xo

  9. Valerie,
    I loved your photos and your words inviting us to seek a closer relationship with God...yes, He is the treasure our hearts seek ...so endless and like you said layer by layer...blessings as you begin Advent :-)

    1. Dolly,
      Thank you for your sweet words! What a treasure he is for us to consider this Advent season, isn't he?

  10. I am so happy you wrote about this door! I have always admired it on your blog but never knew anything about it! It just goes to show that sometimes when you think something has brought you all the joy it can, there is always a little surprise around the corner! Love this post and the photos! - Britt

    1. I know you love doors -- I don't think I could find a better one this one! xo

  11. So beautiful! I love your analogy and your photography is stunning! I'm visiting your blog from faithbarista.com. :) Thank you for sharing!! You can find my post @ writinginthestillness.com (http://www.writinginthestillness.com/2015/12/seeking-peace.html#.VmmouoSwOnQ)

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Thanks for stopping by! So glad you enjoyed the photos! :)


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