Catholic Photo Challenge: Seeing God in the Works of Creation

Please check out this new project by my friend Steve over at everythingesteban blog.

Show us a photo that represents to you God’s presence in the natural world.


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Click to make bigger

My husband and I have settled into middle age and the empty nest by picking up a new hobby: gardening. I recently posted on Facebook that it’s a wonder I managed to raise three kids when I killed every houseplant I ever came into contact with, so this gardening thing is, well, comical.

And yet, we have great success. We’ve managed to grow fruits and vegetables in spite of ourselves, and we’re delighting in the beauty of flowers whose names I’ve only just recently learned.

The garden attracks butterflies and birds, and little creatures who help themselves too much to my berries.

We enjoy sitting in the backyard in the early evening waiting for the sun to go down, lulled into a quiet repose. Our silence is broken only by the occasional suggestion to look at a bird feeding, and we quickly return to our quiet state.

I should point out that we’re the ones who are quiet; the backyard is full of life and all the noises and sounds that come with that — but it’s through our interior silence that we’re able to take in all the activity around us. The different kinds of birdcalls, for instance. One of these days I hope to differentiate between the cardinals and the bluejays. I can identify my enemy, the mockingbird, and I’ve even seen some bluebirds venturing into the trees, too.

My husband has worked hard at making this little getaway for us and filling it with a variety of things to both entertain us and beautify the area, but it is the Master Gardener who ultimately put the finishing touches on this, His masterpiece. His loving touch embraced me suddenly and unexpectedly — aren’t His gifts always an amazing surprise?

Last evening, in the dwindling light, a soft breeze came up, carrying with it the scent of honesuckles. It filled the patio with the sweet scent, and it carried me back a million years (or maybe forty) to my childhood. Funny how something like a scent or a sound can do that.

I followed my nose to the source, a wild and messy blanket of honeysuckles covering a little corner of the yard that I’ve remarked is unsightly and in need of attention. God, it would seem, had me covered.

He always does.


the honeysuckles are here!

Nothing brings back my childhood in Atlanta like honeysuckles. I used to get up early, while the dew was still on the grass, and ride my bike to the park for swim practice. There’s something about that early morning newness that has imprinted into my soul, and it includes honeysuckles. They were everywhere — folks might say like a weed, but I’m kind of partial to dandelions,too, so maybe I just like weeds.

The scent of honeysuckles hit me full force this morning when I walked the dog. I’m sure it had everything to do with the rain that washed away the yucky pollen and left everything refreshed and new. It is the Easter season after all.

I’ve seen them along the fence and creeping towards the mailbox, but I haven’t really walked that way in some time, so they weren’t quite real to me.  I had to go up to them and gather a bunch to my face to inhale deeply of their sweet scent. And yes, I pulled apart a couple of them to taste the nectar. Nothing has changed in forty-years, still sweet, still fun to pull apart.

The experience left me refreshed, and a little pensive. I could feel the pull of my rosary which I had tucked into my waistband, thinking the walk might be a little longer. The crucifix poked me in the hip, a little attention-getter, if you will. That Jesus, master of subtlety with me.

As it happens, I didn’t pray the rosary. I’ll get to it in the car in a little while. I did, however, think about the crucifix, and the crucifixion of Our Lord. It takes something physical for me, like the scent of flowers or the poke of a cross, to get me to feel, physically, what often seems apparent to others.

I admit it’s something that has been a liability for me, at least academically. You can talk to me until you’re blue in the face, but if I can’t touch it or physically do it, um…I didn’t learn it. No doubt it’s what made me a good athlete — the ball or the racket became an extension of my body and I could feel what I had to do long before I thought about doing it.

That’s probably why I like to pray the rosary. I can touch it, and play with the texture of the beads, and hear the clink of metal. And yes, feel the sharp edges of the cross and the raised corpus upon it. The raised corpus. Wow. I just wrote that without even thinking about the implication. Maybe I should add typing on a keyboard to the senses.

Anyway, the point that I was making is that I need something physical to go along with my faith and I had an interesting thought. I have this yearning for the “epic faith experience” whatever that is (I’ll get back to you with that when I finally figure it out. Don’t hold your breath for it). Here I am thinking that I’m like St. Peter, ready to deny Jesus when things get tough, and really, I’m like St. Thomas.

Poor maligned, doubting Thomas. That’s me. Yep. He had to poke his fingers into Christ’s body to believe. I felt a little sorry for myself when I realized that. I mean, I wanted to be like the saint that got knocked off a horse, or you know, shot full of arrows. What’s a little beheading or burning at the stake for my convictions?

I wanted to be convicted.

Instead, I get a bunch of doubts and the echo of blessed are those who don’t see and believe, and I’ll be honest, I felt like crap about it.  And as I’m pulling apart those honeysuckles I’m thinking that maybe, for me, I got this a little wrong. Jesus was gentle with Thomas, and gave him permission to touch his wounds. In fact, told him to put his fingers in the wounds, to feel for himself. So maybe Thomas was just a little slow getting to where he needed to be, but he got there. And Jesus told him he was blessed for it.

Like me.