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Lessons from the Ladybugs

My husband Keith is not a phone user, so when I received a text from him last fall saying “Ladybugs are swarming!” I didn’t know what to think. When I got home that day, I had to fight my way to the back door, while ladybugs flew wildly around, clinging to my clothes and sliding in the house.  They covered the outside of the house like college kids at spring break, kind of wild and bunched up.

Although this year’s numbers were larger than usual, we have been familiar with ladybugs for several years now. From my research on the web, I learned ladybugs like to spend the winter in older, light colored houses, so we are listed as a 5 star hotel in the ladybug world. Every fall they move in.

We are little like Downton Abbey here; the ladybugs live upstairs in the attic and in our walls and Keith and I and the cat live downstairs. When it is cold and gloomy outside they stay in and lounge around like the rest of us, but when the sun comes out, boy howdy, do they wake up! They cover the east facing windows in the front room, fly around the light fixture in the dining room and turn up in the darndest places.

I usually don’t mind having them around. They are companionable little guys, ambling along the table, perching on the lamp, sauntering by the couch.  For some reason I always imagine them with a British accent – “Sorry to bother you dear, just popping over here to the other end of the table” –  as one hurries across my book. And of course we all know what beneficial insects they are, eating all the aphids and everything.

But there are down sides to living with the little red spotted bugs. They often end up in my glass or on my plate, or they get excited and fly around in my face. When they feel threatened, they emit a bad smell and sometimes a yellow fluid (which I read is actually their blood!)  But the worst problem is that they tend to die off as they are making their way across the room and their little carcasses are all over the floors.

In our Run For God class the other week, we were discussing how difficult runs make you stronger mentally and physically, just like problems in life make us stronger people. Having dead ladybugs lying around my floors has helped me to be a better housekeeper.  It’s hard to ignore them, so I  vacuum and sweep a little more often. In a weird way, having insects infesting my house has made it cleaner.

The other day as I was emptying my vacuum bag after sucking up a few hundred dead ladybugs, I noticed that there was also a lot of cat hair and other dirt in the bag. While I was getting up the obvious debris of the ladybugs, I was also getting up other junk that was embedded in the carpet that was not easily seen. I thought about how this is like we are in life – sometimes our obvious sins can mask the ones we don’t see.

In the church we are pretty good at the obvious ones – we are proud of how we don’t steal or lie or commit adultery.  But Psalm 90:8 tells us, “You spread out our sins before you—our secret sins—and see them all. ”  I don’t often ask God to show me my secret sins.  I think I am doing pretty good to stay away from the obvious ones.  But what about pride, envy, jealousy, gluttony, or covetousness? Adultery does not have to be sexual – if you have ever said to yourself, “I sure wish my wife/husband was more like (fill in the blank),” then you have committed adultery in your heart.  Wishing our life was more like someone else’s is stepping into dangerous ground.  To quote the late Erma Bombeck, “The grass is always greener over the septic tank.”

So the ladybugs have helped me see that sometimes I need to do some deep cleaning in my spiritual life!

But they have also taught me about enjoying the simple pleasures in life. Around our house we practice what I like to call “Ladybug Rescue.” On sunny days when the ladybugs cover the windows and fly around excitedly, Keith and I take our dustbuster and suck the little guys safely up. (A vacuum cleaner will pulverize them, but not a dustbuster.) I then take them outside and give the filter a shake – they hesitate for a second, then realize that they are finally outside and take off into the open air! I love watching them fly off – even if they are probably just heading back to crawl into our house again!

Thank-you ladybugs for bringing me joy – I hope I will always appreciate you!

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