Our house was getting attacked by ants when I left for the women’s retreat. Apparently I’m allergic to red ant bites. My ankles were bitten and swollen and I could not wait to get away from my own house, just because of the ants.
NOTICING THE WILDFLOWERS
I woke early the first morning of the retreat and got ready quickly so I could spend time alone in nature before breakfast. I wandered up the dirt path and found the camp’s paintball field, hidden in the tall trees near the stream. As I walked, I hoped and prayed that God would open my eyes to what He wanted to show me that morning. “Do you have anything you’d like to tell me, Lord?”
Just a little further, I thought, and then I’ll turn around and head back for breakfast. I walked up a hill and noticed some tiny wildflowers along the path. “Oh God, they are beautiful! Is this what you want to give me today? These beautiful wildflowers?” Soon I saw more and more wildflowers–yellow, white, and red, that had been there all along, but now they stood out as a gift, beautiful treasures for me to notice and enjoy.
Then I came to one so beautiful, I knew God wanted me to find it. White with purple and blue tips on the petals. So gorgeous. I picked one and brought it back to my room.
God is so romantic! Purple is my favorite color, and blue is Andy’s favorite color. The white, to me, represents the presence of God. And just to make it extra sweet, the flower has five petals, just like Andy and I have five kids.
Later that day, for silence and solitude time, I went up a hiking trail and saw many more of those same white, purple, and blue flowers. Some were growing under fallen trees and along hidden pathways.
A LESSON ABOUT ANTS
When I got to the top of the trail, God drew my attention to a leafy bush along the path. I felt him telling me, “Look closer. Here.” I looked at that specific leaf, closer. There was one huge, probably 3/4-inch, black ant on the leaf.
“God, do you want me to see this leaf or this ant?” I watched the ant as it walked back and forth across the leaf, over and under and around and back again. “What is it doing? Does it know what it’s doing?” It was very busy, completing his task, whatever that task was. He was not stopping.
Taking the story back a few weeks, my friend Heather @faithtakesflight had recently visited Gleanings and I had told her about our ant problem in our house. “Have you heard of Corrie ten Boom?” she asked.
“Corrie ten Boom was taken to a concentration camp during the Holocaust,” Heather said. “While in a concentration camp, Corrie was upset that their room had fleas and lice, as if the starvation and torture at the camp weren’t enough. Her sister told her, ‘Corrie, Thank God for everything, even the lice.’ So she did. Corrie thanked God even for the lice. It turned out that the lice even had a purpose. Because they had lice and their room had lice, the guards avoided their room, which meant they could quietly sing and worship God and have Bible studies in their room every night. The lice was a burden, but God used even the lice to be a blessing in disguise.”
I could not get the idea off my mind. How could these ants possibly be a blessing? How could I thank God for this burden? (I did thank God that my problems were nothing compared to Corrie ten Boom’s problems.)
As I was watching this humongous ant on the leaf, I was amused. “God what do you want me to notice about this ant?”
God seemed to say, “Well, what do you notice about it?”
The ant does not stop doing what it’s made to do just because it can’t see the big picture. It doesn’t wake up and lay on the dirt one day because it’s not making a big impact on the whole network of ants. It cheerfully does its task, its small part of the big picture. And it works hard.
I felt God was telling me that I can work hard on my writing even though I don’t know how God will use it. Even though I can’t see beyond the daily tasks, I must still do the daily tasks.
Because of the ant problem in my house, I learned a simple but profound lesson. It was as if God was telling me to zoom in. Look at the smaller picture and don’t worry about the big picture. Maybe I can be more like the ant.
“Look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do.“ Proverbs 6:6
THE HIDDEN FLOWER
Then, the wildflowers on my walk back! I looked at some blooming under a log. They were just as cheerful being hidden as the other wildflowers that were more visible.
God saw each one bloom and he delighted in each one. He invited me to delight in each one. Just because.
It didn’t matter how grand or visible they were. God saw them. Wasn’t that enough?
If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?” Luke 12:25
I thought about my favorite flowers: peonies. I thought, Well, peonies may be bigger, chopped down, put in a vase, and posted on social media. But that does not make the peonies more important or more beautiful than the wildflowers under the log.
God’s love! There is nothing else like it. He sees us, he is patient with us. He does not teach us with harsh, accusing words. He is so kind.
He invites us to hold his hand and walk with him in the sunshine.
When I got home from the retreat, the ants in my house were gone.
. . .
I’m excited to see how God will continually surprise and delight each of us with the nature around us. God created us to be in nature every day, noticing what He is doing through it. Birds, wildflowers, ants, sunshine–each is a gift. Can you spend time alone in nature this week? Next week? I feel like God is inviting me to take a nature walk every day.
“Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance–but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?” Luke 12:25