The Ladybug Tree

May 9, 2011 | 29 comments

I’ve been stubborn. I’ve always demanded the sure thing. Every time, I’ve chosen what I could see with my own two eyes, rather than standing firm with feet planted in what faith requires. I’ve been like Thomas — preferring something I could touch and return to over and over.

Like my ladybug tree. Every spring, the ladybugs would return, predictable and sure. No faith required.  

I was a grade-school girl, sitting crosslegged, on the place where the cracked, bulging sidewalk greeted a new spring blanket of grass. In the shade of the elm, I’d seek the ladybugs every May. And like a promise, each spring, I’d find the city of plump little ladies in tight red dresses with oversized black polka-dots. They wore black stilettos heels, and danced under the shade of the elm.

I was the hostess for the ladybug party — serving pine-needle tea in maple-leaf cups.

And I was the entertainment, singing songs into an elm-branch microphone.

And I was the staircase on which they would dance. I’d hold my arm at an angle, pressing fingertips into soft dirt. If I stayed still, the bugs would waltz up my skin, tickling me as the spring sun warmed my neck.

Every spring, I knew they’d be there. I believed, because I had seen.

And then one spring, I went out with my pine needles and my tea cups, and the lady bugs with the high heels were gone.

I stopped believing in lady-bugs.

Ladybug, ladybug
Fly away home …


Just yesterday, thirty years later, the ladies returned for me. And it was one of those moments when beauty sneaks right up under your nose to surprise you.

I was in the garden — my garden — with the sun falling on my bent-over back, and we were trimming back the dead. A stripping away to make room for new growth in this, the season of perennial hope.

I pushed back a clump of green, sprouting up under the arching birch, and that’s where I found them. It was a whole village of ladybugs, gripping leaves and dancing a slow waltz on branches. (And no, these weren’t the Asian beetles.)

“Come, girls, look!” I called. “Real ladybugs!”

The girls crashed through the landscape, hurdling over new spring growth. Their eyes adjusted, and they hunched over to find it: this lost city, crawling red in the shade.

“I see them, Mommy!” the littlest one whispered, and we stood still at the wonder. The girl in the Tinkerbell costume plucked one, cupping it in her hands so beauty wouldn’t fly away.


All around us, I think, we have front row seats to a Beauty Dance. The ladybugs didn’t fly away forever. I just stopped looking for them, and stopping believing in them.

And this is what I’m forever relearning. Even when I can’t see with my eyes, I can see with my faith. For always — always — something beautiful is waiting to be discovered.


Today, I pray you, let faith be my eyes.
Be thou my vision


Submitted as part of Laura’s Playdates with God series.

Also writing in community with Michelle.

by | May 9, 2011 | 29 comments


  1. Tracey Soko

    I love that you say that God doesn’t go away – we just stop looking.

    • dukeslee

      Hi Tracey,

      I have to admit … I’ve often been envious of those whose faith seemed to come naturally. Mine has grown up from a wee mustard seed. But my Savior says that even this kind of faith — the smallest kind — can move mountains.

      I’m grateful for a God who is ever-present.

      Thank you for stopping by.

  2. laura

    Oh, Jennifer, this Beauty Dance makes me draw breath deep! What a lovely coming home story of sorts. The way our Good God sends these little love notes (or, love BUGS as your ladies would have it:)) is breathtaking.

    And your tinkerbell? Why didin’t I think of working in the garden dressed just so? It might make the weeding all the more magical. 🙂 Oh, those little girls…

    • dukeslee

      I’ve been looking for the perfect opportunity to join your Playdates with God linky, Laura. This Beauty Dance seemed the perfect opportunity. Thank you for helping open my eyes to God’s beauty in the simplest things.

  3. Megan Willome

    I can just picture you there, as a child. You’ll have to tell us if your daughters carry on the tradition.

    • dukeslee

      Secretly, I hope they do. I’ll try not to push. But if they don’t play, I will! 🙂

      Thanks, Megan, for stopping by.

  4. Daily Journey

    OJ MY! This made me cry! With joy and happiness. I love this. It made me think of the lady bugs I loved as a child dancing on my arm then made me think of my precious granddaughter who races in the Spring looking for them dancing with them lacing up her arms every Spring. I even have pricutres of them on her. She loves them and always tells me when she grows up she is going to be a lady bug.
    Thank you for this perfect playdate.

    • dukeslee

      Hello Daily Journey:

      I had almost forgotten about my obsession with the ladybugs until I came across my own, there in the garden.

      I love this about writing. We get a chance to — as Natalie Goldberg says in Writing Down the Bones — “live life twice.” It forces us to sit down and explore once again the textures and details of a life lived.

  5. Nancy

    Tinkerbell and ladybugs in the same post–what more could one want? Isn’t it amazing how many of those small, sweet things from childhood(like waiting for ladybugs to show up in their stilettos) prepare us to see Jesus in deeper and richer ways when He reminds us of them? Ladybugs in stilettos–love it!

    • dukeslee

      Hi Nancy! It makes me feel all dreamy and wonder-land-ish, too. 🙂

      I think this must be one of the unexpected blessings of motherhood — getting a chance to see things through child-eyes all over again.

  6. Linda

    This touches my heart Jennifer. I used to be, in my childhood, so filled with faith. Somewhere along the line, Thomas sort of nudged faith into a corner, and I have resented his intrusion and wished him gone.
    I want a consistent faith – one that doesn’t have to tack a faint little question mark on the end of things all too often.
    This says it so well. I want to see with eyes of faith too.

    • dukeslee


      I appreciate your honesty here. I, too, have longer to have get rid of the question marks. But I’ve determined that God is growing my faith through these questions, so in the end, I’ll go ahead and keep them.

      However, … I do have a Mystery File on my desk, and from time to time, I tuck notes and questions into the file. Someday, I’m guessing, I’ll get to know the answers to all those big questions!

  7. Shaunie Friday

    “plump little ladies in tight red dresses with oversized black polka-dots. They wore black stilettos heels, and danced under the shade of the elm.” You took me there with you Jennifer! Beautiful in every way!

  8. Tay

    Wow! This is sooooo amazing! Thank you for sharing this wonderful and quite magical story. But it is so true in our spiritual lives as well. This perfectly fits into what you wrote last week about doubt. A great follow-up.

    • dukeslee

      Hi Tay!

      Thank you for your words here. Yes, it does seem that I’ve been revisiting my old friend Thomas lately. 🙂

  9. Beth E.

    This post brought a tear to my eye, Jennifer. I’ve needed to return to that child-like faith…thanks for the nudge.


  10. S. Etole

    I still have a book I had as a child about a ladybug …thanks for the reminder to keep looking!

  11. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    You ran out of aphids! 🙂 My mother in law says a healthy garden has no lady bugs because they have no bad bugs to eat. I’d rather an unhealthy one. Love this image of you as a child.

    • dukeslee

      Jennifer ~

      Ah-HA! Maybe that’s it! Well, I guess I’ll happily keep an unhealthy garden. Those ladybugs are too precious.

      Now, we just need to remember that bugs stay OUTSIDE. Anna came in with a whole cup full of them last night. 🙂

  12. Anna

    Thank you for this lovely view of the Beauty Dance, and for the reminder to look for beauty, even when our eyes can’t see it. Loved your post.

  13. Charity Singleton

    Oh, that green Tinkerbell princess right there in the garden with the plump ladies with tight red dresses and giant black polka dots. A beautiful dance indeed! Part of my problem with faith is that we believe such magical stories as children, and when we grow up, we’re told to put all that behind us. We lose the “child-like” quality of believing in things bigger than us. You have recaptured it well, here.

  14. Connie@raise your eyes

    “For always – always – something beautiful is waiting to be discovered.”…yes, we just need eyes to see.

    “Be Thou My Vision” is my very best favorite hymn…maybe we forget to stop and see because we put away our essential Tinkerbell clothes…thank you to your wee ones for helping us see today!

  15. Michelle DeRusha

    Yes! It’s been I keep my eyes open that I see Him everywhere! Like Laura B. said in her playdates post, “We are a watching people.”

    And the tinkerbelle costume in the garden? Now that is just plain delightful.

    Thanks for linking up, Jennifer!

  16. Angela

    Beautiful, beautiful story! Oh, I love your writing … it is so vivid!


    When I saw the pictures I exclaimed, “All of those?!” How do you suppose they got there, or rather I wonder what brought them? I would love to have just a few in my yard.

    Beautiful story and beautifully told.

    Thanks you

  17. Beth Herring

    i’ve called my oldest granddaughter ‘ladybug’ since the day she was born over 8 years ago. anytime i found clothes with ladybugs on them, i bought them for her when she was little. she still loves for me to call her that and looks for ladybugs everywhere. when she finds them it makes her happy – i love this post!

  18. Missie

    Let faith be my eyes. That is going to be my constant prayer.

  19. Kathy

    Nice fitting for spring when we all are trying to make our garden beds a bit prettier..even when we can’t see them all winter long they are there…have faith…they will be back and need new work to rekindle our faith in flowers as we now and then need to rekindle our faith in God.

  20. Janis@Open My Ears Lord

    Jennifer, what a beautiful story! I’m reminded of how easy it is to stop having faith when I haven’t seen God answer my prayers in a particular area. He has sent you, and through you, a message to all of us–keep the faith even when your eyes don’t see!
    Your sweet little princess in her green Tinkerbell costume and the ladybug dance–so much a part of you and the way you delightfully write!


  21. Angela

    What a precious account and a wonderful reminder that God is ALWAYS there, it is we who stop searching for Him.

    Thank you for this beautiful story!


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