Whispers from God in the Garden

Having grown up in New England and experiencing many a fierce winter, I have found myself longing for spring to come a bit earlier every year. It’s a combination of wanting to finally get warm (because my aging bones don’t like the cold!) and to get outside to admire God’s creation when hiking or taking a respite from work to simply sit and feel a gentle warm breeze on my face and inhale the crisp fragrant air.

Ever since I can remember, I have loved gardening. I think I must have inherited this love from my parents. My father was an amazing vegetable gardener, taking pride in the amount and sizes of tomatoes he harvested from his tilled soil. My mother filled our yard with all kinds of colorful bushes and beautiful flowers, and adorned the inside of our humble home with them too. Then, there was the long hedge of lilac bushes making their statement at the end of our back yard. Oh, how I enjoyed the heavenly fragrance with every spring breeze when spending precious time with my grandmother when she visited. Those lilac memories have stayed with me. My kids never fail to pick me a sweet-smelling bunch each Mother’s Day.

I have been organic gardening for a number of years now. I love to plant nutritious vegetables that can help to nourish my family. Over the years, I have become quite obsessed with growing garlic! Last Autumn I planted 435 plants which I will harvest later this sumer. I have also planted a variety of vegetables in my back yard garden—way back here in the woods of rural Connecticut.

God’s love in a daisy

Recently, I discovered God’s love for me in a simple daisy. I blogged about it here. But I’ll share a few snippets with you now. It begins with my husband picking a daisy for me from the garden which ends up on the kitchen table in front of me. My husband and I were sitting at the table and he was reading a Psalm out loud upon my request. As I listened, I began to look at the daisy. I couldn't help but see it because as I mentioned, it was right--there-in--front--of--me.

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As I leaned in a bit closer, I suddenly discovered something about the daisy, that to me, was unexpected. I stared at the modest little gift my husband gave me the previous day. I was truly amazed at the perfect and petite intricate pattern on that simple yellow and white flower. I don’t think I had ever looked that closely before. I’m not sure. But, my sweet daisy was “speaking” to me during the reading of the Psalm, which was all about mirroring back “in loving praise to the God who made us the beauty we glimpse dimly in all that comes from his hand.”

God is certainly about all of the details of His creation. Since He is, I have no doubt that He takes care of every detail of our lives.

If God can create such incredible and intricate beauty in one simple daisy, just think of the beauty He wants to make of our hearts and souls!

We finished our prayer together, blessing ourselves with the Sign of the Cross and Dave headed to the other room. Before I dove into some preparations for our upcoming barbecue, I decided to step outside to pause a moment beside the daisies in my garden where I could give thanks and praise to God.

There had been a gentle rain that morning and some rain drops were clinging to the daisy petals which was another reminder to me of how God takes care of the details. My thoughts immediately turned to one of my very favorite Bible passages:

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:26-34)

Those beautiful words from Scripture give us so much to ponder—and a huge dose of boundless hope and encouragement. This message of how God provides for us couldn’t have come at a better time. I wholeheartedly believe that God can speak to us anywhere and at anytime, but I seem to hear Him a lot in nature.

There's another story from my garden I'd like to share...

I was tricked!

A few years ago, I bought this sweet, delicate-looking perennial plant to put in my garden alongside my long front sidewalk.

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Doesn’t it look so sweet and innocent? Well, I thought so.

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But, I was tricked! This plant didn’t have a label on it for some reason when I purchased it, or at least I don't recall one. If it did have a label, I certainly did not read it carefully enough. I naively bought it because it looked so charming and I planted it with my other pretty perennials.

This is what it looks like after a few weeks of growing this spring.

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Something that looked so delicate and completely innocent is trying to totally take over my garden: crushing, smothering, and choking out my perennials! I haven’t been able to weed it out this year yet due to a painful rib injury which is now beginning to heal. So watch out weeds and deceptive plants! Here I come!

Even though this was a bad gardening experience and causes me great work getting rid of it, I can hear God speaking through this invasive plant, which, by the way, I have weeded out of my garden every single spring for the past few years only to see it come back each and every spring with more fury, it seems!

Making Something Beautiful for God

We can learn from my mistake in the garden. The moral of this story is that we can be tricked. We should always be vigilant when it comes to our spiritual lives. Appearances can be very deceptive. We need to be very careful and prudent about decisions involving with whom we choose to hang out and with what activities we choose to partake in. Are we caring for our prayer life by making time for it and asking God for the strength and grace to grow in holiness? Are we nourishing our faith with sound Church approved materials and reading and staying away from senseless, demeaning media, television, and bad influences and messages that belittle or trash our Christianity? Are we being careful to guide our children away from people and things that can take them away from their faith?

My former spiritual director (now in heaven), Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. who was a world renowned theologian counseled about keeping good company. As did the saints. Here is an excerpt from my book, Rooted in Love: Our Calling As Catholic Women:

Fr. Hardon counseled that we should only keep company with people who are obviously in the state of grace because they can indeed aid us on our spiritual journeys.  Many times at retreats and to me personally he warned that hanging out with people who aren’t so concerned about the state of their souls might very well be to our detriment. This is not to say that we should not minister to the sinner if we are called to, rather that we should not take on the bad habits of sinners and allow their influence to take over our own minds and souls. If our friends are comprised of mostly non-Christians and non-believers, we can expect that their influence will not be nurturing our souls.

We can also feed our souls with spiritual reading. But we need to be sure that the material we study is in line with authentic Church teaching. Fr. Hardon said:

"Make absolutely sure that in studying the faith you read authors who support the faith, and consult people who themselves are staunchly Catholic, and listen to speakers and attend conferences and discuss with those who will fortify what you believe. Let their faith nourish yours and your faith, nourish theirs. Never has it been more necessary to choose your close friends and companions." 

St. John Bosco shared his beliefs and cautions on spiritual readings.  He said, “Never read books you are not sure about . . . even supposing these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: would you drink something you knew had been poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?”

This brings to mind the numerous books out there that are not in line with the Church’s teaching and the others that are a total attack on Church tradition. We must be wise and selective. If you’re not sure, check it out with someone who is.

Many who want to advance in holiness pursue spiritual direction. It’s wise to seek out a holy priest, religious, or someone you know who is knowledgeable with matters of the spiritual life and faithful to the Magisterium, or teaching authority of the Church. And of course, someone who is willing to meet with you on a regular basis to discuss spiritual matters and growth.

[Tweet "There are countless influences all around us that will NOT lead us in the direction of heaven."]

There are countless influences all around us that will NOT lead us in the direction of heaven. The evil one never sleeps, is constantly on the prowl, and would love more than anything to trip us up, confuse us, and get us tangled up in sin or anything that will draw us away from God. We can become ensnared in so many detrimental traps of the culture (powered by the evil one), which can sneakily attempt to choke the spiritual life right out of us—slowly creeping further and further until the damage is almost uncontrollable. If we are not careful and prayerful, we might not notice the damage or the danger for awhile. It's kind of like the frog in the pot of water that gets boiled alive because the heat on the stove is turned up very slowly. He doesn’t feel warned about the impending danger to jump out of the pot! Poor frog.

Let's not be tricked by deception. Thankfully, with a commitment to prayer, reflection, examination of conscience, going to Confession, receiving the Eucharist, and making strong efforts to protect oneself and one’s family; we can save the “garden” of our soul!

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Yet, let’s not merely save it, let’s take it further than that to truly make our lives and our souls “something beautiful for God” as Mother Teresa was famous for saying! She also cautioned:

Yes, you must live life beautifully and not allow the spirit of the world that makes gods out of power, riches and pleasures make you to forget that you have been created for greater things to love and be loved. (Source: Missionaries of Charity official website)

Is God whispering to your soul?

Copyright 2016 Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle