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Urban Beauty and Groundhogs

View from our front porch

It is easy for me to notice beauty when I am in the mountains of Colorado or in another place of obvious beauty. It’s harder for me to notice beauty in my normal routine. Most of the time I am moving too fast to slow down and notice.

This summer, on our youth mission trip to Mobile, Alabama, I was sitting by Mobile Bay taking in the sunset over the water. In that moment of beauty I felt close to God. My time with the Lord there felt more real and substantial.

Fast forward a few months to our new home in downtown Champaign. We downsized from three bedrooms to two bedrooms which meant I lost the office which is where I usually had my time with the Lord. As the weather has cooled, my new spot is now on our front porch. It is hardly a place of stillness and quiet with the city buses and commuters whizzing by. But for me it is a spiritual refuge to start my day.

As I have slowed down, watched and listened to the urban life around me there is beauty here. Whether it is watching the playfulness of squirrels or the spider waiting for its next meal, I can see beauty. God the Creator is in the extravagant beauty of mountains and ocean coastlines, but he is also in the “routine beauty” of our urban neighborhood. I just have to slow down to notice it.

One last story to close. A few weeks ago I came home and Hillary and the girls were on the porch. They has spotted a groundhog near our front porch and scared it off. I had time to snap this picture of the surprise visitor. He is just above the deck in the middle.

Yesterday morning as I was reading on the porch, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. As I looked toward the movement I fully expected to see a squirrel or bird. As I looked, it was much bigger than a bird or a squirrel. It was the big, fat groundhog staring back at me! We stared each other down and I wondered what to do next. I thought of chucking something at it but decided for the more peaceful route and just stared it down. The groundhog slowed ambled across our front yard toward our neighbor’s fence. Then it was gone. Urban beauty once again. At least until we realize that our urban visitor is destructive.

Where do you see beauty in your normal routine?