Yellow Butterflies

"Be still, and know that I am God."
—Psalm 46:10

I've read about people who accepted the Lord and were instantly saved from catastrophic illness or from a life of sin or from debt. My Christian journey didn’t begin that way. It happened slowly. God led me through baby steps and taught me to listen patiently and with all of my senses.

The first time I heard God's voice, I thought it would always be easy to know His will. I thought I could ask Him what I should do and He would immediately tell me. Instead, I found that often He is silent. In the weeks and months that followed my salvation, I cried out endlessly to Him—but He said nothing.

I vowed that I wouldn't give up hope. Having heard His voice in my inner self was supernatural enough for me to believe that God was real. After all, I hadn't made up the words I heard on the bluff or near the prairie. Surely it wasn’t coincidence that made the sun shine, as God said it would, on the day He saved me. These things alone were enough to keep me believing. I decided that if I searched hard enough, I would find the golden secret to hearing His voice whenever I wished.

I looked in the local Christian bookstore for answers. I bought books about prayer, and I read them as quickly as I could. I read the Bible, something I hadn't done for years. I concentrated on what Jesus taught about prayer. I did everything I could think of to please God, and yet He remained silent. Finally, in desperation, I went back to the bluff. I sat there on the grass looking out at the water, waiting for something miraculous to happen. Then, completely frustrated and at the edge of doubt, I said, "Okay, God. If you're not going to talk to me then maybe Nevell was right—maybe I'm just not worth it."

That thought had only formed inside of my head when a small, yellow butterfly landed on my knee. I whisked it away, got up, and walked. As I walked, the butterfly flew alongside me. At first I thought it was a coincidence. Then it became strange. If I changed direction, so did the butterfly. If I walked faster, she stayed with me. Then, after a few minutes, the most incredible thing happened. A dozen yellow butterflies joined the first. They fluttered about, seemingly interested in nothing else but me. At that moment God whispered five simple words, "I am with you always." For the rest of that summer, yellow butterflies became a symbol of His love. I saw them everywhere: on stationery, greeting cards, posters, and in newspaper ads. They flew in front of my car, and they fluttered outside my office window. But the most remarkable butterfly sighting was yet to come.

One day, I felt God nudging my spirit. He seemed to be telling me that it was time to move on. The apartment building that I lived in was going condo, and I had the choice of buying my unit or finding another place to live. God said, "Go."

I began working with a realtor to find a house. Nothing I saw was right—too big, too small, too expensive, too far away. Then, one afternoon, she called to say that she had found the perfect house for me. She read the address aloud. It was in a neighborhood near my apartment building, one that I was familiar with, and I knew that I couldn't afford a house there. "Just check it out," she said. "This one feels right."

The house was in a subdivision of solid, brick homes. There were tidy yards and flower gardens everywhere on cool, quiet, tree-lined streets. I found the address and parked out front. Everything about the house was perfect—the cream-colored brick, the landscaping, the quaint wooden shutters. I can't afford this, I thought. But then I saw it. A yellow butterfly! She was the centerpiece of a stained-glass sun catcher hanging in the front window of the house. She was big and bold with outstretched wings. "Okay, Lord," I said. "Show me the way."

After that, things happened quickly. The house was more than I could afford, but I placed a bid anyway. It was rejected. I placed a second bid, and that one was rejected, too. I was ready to give up until, on the very morning I'd planned to call my realtor to tell her to forget it, the Wisconsin State Government issued low-interest financing for first-time homebuyers. I qualified, and my third bid was accepted. That was twenty-five years ago, and I still live in that perfect home that God chose for me.

The butterfly sightings have decreased through the years, but once in a while, God will send a yellow butterfly in an unlikely time or place as a gentle reminder that He is with me. The butterflies teach me that often our Lord speaks without words.

Just as in Biblical times there are signs and wonders today, but in our hectic world, with all of the noise and confusion, it's difficult to recognize them. We must be quiet and look for them, and we have to trust God to help us see them. Often they are small and draw little attention. God doesn’t shout to us, “Look!” Instead, He remains silent wanting us to explore beyond His words. He might speak in the wind or in the autumn leaves or in the moonlight. He might speak through a rainbow or a gentle spring shower or through a sleeping kitten nestled in a lap. When God is silent, it doesn't mean that He's left us. He's just asking us to be patient and quiet. He's asking us to look deeper into His creation to discover the miracles that He sends to us every day.

Dear Lord:

Help me to be still before you, patient and quiet, that I might see your signs and wonders.

©2009 Jean Fischer
All rights reserved.

Ladybug, Ladybug

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
—Proverbs 3:6 (NIV)

The ladybug got her name in the Middle Ages when she was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, also known as "Our Lady;" hence the name "Ladybug." I've always liked these little orange and black insects. I find them to be friendly, unlike flies, mosquitoes, and wasps. Perhaps I like them so much because of the name. “Ladybug" has a certain sense of aristocracy and decorum. You know exactly what to expect from her.

Ladybugs rest on the rocks that line the Lake Michigan shore. Sometimes you'll see hundreds of them on a single rock at one time. It's a sight to behold—a shimmering orange puddle in the middle of a drab concrete boulder. They congregate there as if to make plans. Then they fly off to wherever God sends them.

Near the shore, there's a narrow stretch of prairie. Milkweed plants and dandelions grow there along with ragweed, goldenrod, and crown vetch. It's a good spot for ladybug watching. The path through the prairie is rough and unpaved. I found it during one of my walks, and I've made good use of it. Not many people know about it, and that’s a good thing. It remains in its natural state, untouched except by those who respect it for what it is.

The prairie is a mix of new growth and dried up remnants. Sometimes, the property owner uses a controlled fire to burn off the old and make way for the new. The aftereffect is a charred, forbidding landscape with the lingering scent of charcoal. It's a sad sight, and you would vow it means nothing but death and decay, but from this charred place new plants pop up from their roots and come back more beautiful than before.

It was there that I found the ladybug. She was perched atop a long blade of prairie grass that had somehow survived the fire. The wind blew hard, and the grass was swinging back and forth with the ladybug clinging to it for dear life. I worried for her. I wondered if she had the strength to hold on. If she lost her grip, I was certain that her tiny body couldn't possibly withstand the wind. I could coax her onto my finger, maybe. I could move her to a safer place, somewhere lower and out of the breeze. As I bent down and extended my right hand toward her, I heard a familiar inner voice, "Don't touch." Surely, God didn't want me to leave the ladybug in this perilous state! I ignored the warning. I put my finger next to her, but she made no effort to climb onto it. Then I tried to help her by cupping my left hand next to her and giving her a little shove with my right index finger. When I did that, the wind caught her and tore her from her perch. After a minute or two of searching, I found her laying upside-down, her lifeless body covered with soot.

The ladybug was dead, and I was guilty. If only I had listened and not touched. But I meant well—Didn't that count for something? Doesn't meaning well make a difference to God?

Often when we are by ourselves, the Lord’s voice enters our thoughts. Whether walking a nature path, driving a car, or trying to fall asleep, He speaks softly to us. He spoke to me that day as I mourned the ladybug. This time His lesson was about trust.

I was in the middle of a disagreement with a friend. She was not speaking to me, and it bothered me terribly. I'd tried everything I could think of to resolve our conflict, but she was determined that our friendship was over. I prayed about it often, asking God to bring forgiveness and reconciliation, but nothing happened. Stubbornly, I refused to give up. I was determined to restore our friendship.

As I thought about the ladybug, I realized that there are some things that God doesn’t want us to touch. The ladybug belonged to Him, and when I fought against His will, the result was a disaster. I did what I thought was best, and the ladybug died. The same was true for the problem with my friend. In my prayers, I had asked God to resolve it. Yet, I wasn't willing to accept the possibility that maybe He didn't want the friendship restored. Rebelliously, I continued to push Him to resolve our differences, all the while shoving the persistent thought from my head that His answer was no. Using the ladybug, God had answered my question about whether or not meaning well made a difference. He showed me that I hadn't trusted Him to do what was best for me.

In the years since, I’ve learned to live by faith. When there's a situation I want to control, I stop and think about whether or not my intervention is the right thing to do. I listen for God's voice, and then I try to do what He says, instead of what I want.

The ladybug was a sacrifice for my learning that God is in control. He is the Wonderful Counselor, the One who can save all things. But it must be His choice to do so. To receive His best, we must be willing to trust Him and accept His perfect will, especially when His answer is no.

Dear Heavenly Father: Help me to learn to trust you. In all things, help me to stop and listen for your voice so that your will might be done in my life.

©2009 Jean Fischer
All rights reserved

The Compost Pile

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!
—2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Not far from the bluff, where the Lord found me, there is a retirement home for Dominican nuns. It sits high on a hilltop overlooking the western Lake Michigan shore. From the top of the hill, you can see the Milwaukee skyline to the North, and on a clear day, Chicago to the South. The great lake appears as an endless sea. Somewhere beyond the horizon is Michigan, but you can only imagine what its beaches and bluffs look like. In the early springtime, when the weather is still chilly, it’s not unusual to see a sailboat or a cabin cruiser on the lake. Winters in Wisconsin can be long, and diehard captains can't wait for the ice to be gone so they can take their crafts out of dry dock. From the top of the hill, you can watch them leave the harbor and move cautiously through the ice-cold water.

The grounds of the retirement home are spacious and wooded. Deer come into the clearings and eat ripe ears of corn that the nuns pile on ancient, hollow tree stumps. In the spring, the does bring their fawns there. They stay close to their mothers, and they dash away when people come near to them.

In the summer, the nuns have a vegetable garden on a prairie at the edge of the woods. A lovely garden of wildflowers grows around it. It has tall Queen Anne’s lace, neon-blue cornflowers, salmon-colored lilies, and golden rudbekia. The garden is wrapped in an old picket fence; the whitewash paint is peeling, and the gate is rickety and hangs on rusty hinges. The nuns grow sweet corn, peppers, eggplants, and pole beans there. A scarecrow guards the end of a cornrow. She wears a nun's habit and a hot-pink sunbonnet. A plastic owl sits upon her shoulder while screaming crows perch on her hat complaining because the corn isn’t ripe yet.

In the autumn, when the deep-yellow sunflowers are tall, their centers filled with jet-black seeds, children from a nearby school come to help with the harvest and cleanup. They help the nuns build a compost pile from the decaying vegetables, corn stalks, and leaves. The pile is as ugly as the hilltop is beautiful; it stands five-feet tall, towering over the youngest children.

A thin asphalt trail goes up to the hilltop and then down to a narrow, sandy beach. It winds through the woods, across the prairie, and past the garden. It is there for the nuns, visitors, and neighbors to enjoy. Walkers are welcome year-round as long as they are quiet, contemplative, and respectful. Signs along the way remind them of the rules and point out things to look for as the seasons change.

One clear, spring morning, I walked along the path. Arriving at the prairie, I heard a male cardinal singing. He sat high up in an elm tree, and I observed his brightly-colored, mating-season feathers blazing crimson like little flames licking at the tree’s pale foliage. His pallid, olive mate sat on a branch beneath him, occasionally looking up at him as she listened to his song. I listened too, marveling at the crisp clarity of the notes and how far they traveled on the wind. The song ended with a series of short, resounding chirps. Then the male flew down and sat beside his mate. He picked a bud from a nearby branch and then passed it from his bill to hers.

It was at that special moment, that I noticed the stench of the compost pile. The winter thaw had created a damp, tangled mass of decaying vegetables and foliage, and the warmth of the sun had started it cooking. The smell was awful. It was my garbage pail three days after a chicken dinner; it was the container of unidentifiable muck in the back of my refrigerator; it was the city garbage truck on a steamy, August day. I wondered why the nuns hadn't thought to put their compost pile away from the path, somewhere where the scent of rotting plants and kitchen waste could only be smelled by crows, possums, skunks, and raccoons. How rude, I thought, to put it here in this pretty place. I stood there silently grinching to myself sounding a lot like Nevell.

Just then, my complaining heart was interrupted by the Lord's quiet voice. "Jean,” He said. “Although the compost pile isn't like the beautiful things you see on this perfect spring day, it is a part of My perfect plan. Quietly, it accepts the things that are dying, dead, and decaying. Then it works to recycle them into something that will nourish new life."

As I watched the male cardinal feed a seedpod to his mate, I realized that God was also feeding me a seed of knowledge. He was showing me that I envied the lives of my friends. I imagined them living in beautiful gardens filled with “flowers” that were husbands, children, and endless joy. As a single, never-married woman, I saw my hopes and dreams for marriage and family dying in the compost pile. It filled me with a sense of loneliness that Nevell would have loved.

It became clear that envy made me feel apart from God. I had let other possibilities for my life decay for want of what my friends had. God said, "Put envy onto the compost pile, re-form it, recycle it into something new."

He didn’t have to explain. I knew that I was the compost pile and He was the gardener. In my spiritual walk with Him, He was showing me thoughts in my life that needed to be recycled, asking me to change them and to shape them into feelings that would give me new life.

God taught me that day that the things that "smell" in our lives are things that need to be changed. If we give them to God and put them on the compost pile, He will work them all for our good and for His glory. On that beautiful spring day, God changed forever the way I looked at the compost pile. Instead of a pile of rotting muck near a path, it became just as lovely to me as the lake, the deer, the cardinals, and the garden.

Dear Father God: Help me to see those parts of my life that are decaying, dead, or dying. Help me to put them on the "compost pile," that they might be recycled, and nourish new life within me. Amen.

Neville B. Goodenov

"The Lord is with you when you are with him.
If you seek him, he will be found by you."
—2 Chronicles 15:2 (NIV)

My friend, Jane, imagines Satan as someone who looks like a stuffy, British stage actor wearing a red, velvet smoking jacket. She calls him Neville B. Goodenov. Jane says that she imagines Neville sitting next to her on the sofa, puffing on a cigarette in a long, black-lacquered holder. He says, with a British accent, "My dear, you'll never be good enough." When she imagines Neville, it helps her to put Satan in perspective. "It's easier to deal with the concept of a fat-headed Neville," she says, "than with a manipulative, evil spirit from hell."

Neville must have grown tired of Jane, because he came to stay with me early in 1985. He was far more than fatheaded. Neville vacationed in my soul, all expenses paid, and he brought along plenty of baggage. I tried my best to be a good host, but I could never do enough for him. He berated me. He made me feel worthless, until finally I found it next to impossible to get out of bed in the morning. I couldn't face another day of “seeing” Neville sitting there on my sofa, puffing on his cigarette, muttering about all of my faults. He made me cry. I begged him to be better to me, but Neville didn't care. He was living the good life in my depressed soul as if it were a penthouse suite in mid-town Manhattan.

Spring of 1985 was a time of searching as I walked the bridge from young adulthood to maturity. It was a time when I was lost inside of myself hunting for answers. Neville owned me. I was his servant. I was obsessed with what it would take to free me from his bondage. But as I traveled those inner roads, I found nothing. When I searched deeper into myself, I pulled farther away from my family and friends. I sabotaged my relationships until there was just Neville and me—and that's exactly how he wanted it.

I fell into a routine that lasted for months. When I came home from work, I changed into sweat pants and a tee shirt and lay on the sofa where I listened to Neville berate me until it was time for bed. I rarely ate, and when I did it wasn't good food. (Neville said that I wasn't worth a decent meal.) I didn't read, watch television, or go out of the house. I just lay there in a living room filled with Neville’s cigarette smoke, waiting for the late afternoon sun to fade into twilight and disappear into darkness. I lost weight. My friends commented on how great I looked, but it was the last thing I wanted to hear. Neville said that I was ugly, and I believed him. He made my friends into liars. The weight loss made me feel defenseless; even worse, it screamed the secret of my depression to the world— a secret I didn't want anyone to know. I was a genius at hiding it. My family, my co-workers, even my closest friends didn't know. Then, finally, the loneliness devoured me. I ached to be freed from Neville for good.

One morning, I took a long walk. It was a gray, cloudy day, and the weather matched my mood. I strolled along the beautiful Lake Michigan shore where seagulls circled above me and water rolled before me like an ocean, vast and unpredictable. I wandered along a path on a windy bluff trying to decide whether I wanted to live with Neville or die to be rid of him. The churning, mouse-colored water stretched as far as I could see. I imagined a place on the other side that was filled with happiness and peace, a place without Neville. I struggled with how to get there. I wondered if God was on the other side of the water, and if He was, I wondered if He cared about me. I'd grown up believing in Him, but during my teen years, I'd rejected Him. At best, I was an agnostic. God seemed so far away, impossible to reach. I tried to remember the words of the Lord's Prayer. It was years since I had prayed it. I was beaten and broken by Neville, and I felt every bit the worthless human being that he said I was.

"Lord," I whispered, "I need you."

Words formed in my mind—powerful, authoritative words: "Look out at the water, and the sun will shine upon you." I stood on the edge of the bluff, and I looked out toward the horizon. On that cloudy day, there was a patch of blue in the sky. The sun broke through the clouds, and the inner voice spoke again, "Hold not another with more love than you have for me.”

I felt an odd sense of peace. I knew! I knew that God loved me, and I knew that I loved myself, and even Neville, more than I loved Him. It became clear to me that by wallowing in my own self-deprecation and by coveting all the things that I thought would make me happy, I had invited Neville to rule my heart. I decided that the only way to get rid of him was to put God first in everything. Before I finished my walk that day, I made the commitment to do just that—to put God first in all things—and when I did, my heart began to heal.

It wasn't easy to let go and trust God. Neville had done a good job of convincing me that trust leads to pain. Still, I chose the Lord that day. I gave my whole self to Him, and before long, Neville’s evil, condemning whispers were drowned by the sweetness of God's gentle voice. My soul no longer allowed Neville the four-star accommodations that he preferred, and he packed his bags and left.

Since then, my life has been a wonderful adventure. It has been a time of learning and discovery as God teaches me that He is in all things. Sometimes, His love shines brightly like the sun, and it warms me. Other times, His tears rain upon me as He helps me to learn lessons that will give me strength and understanding.

I hope that as you read this blog you will find God in everyday places. When you open your eyes to the possibilities, God will be there. All He asks is that you be still enough to hear His voice and that you be open enough to see Him in the simplest things.

Dear Lord,
Please come into my life, live within me, and open my eyes and my senses that I might see you everywhere, even in the most ordinary things. Amen.

©2009 Jean Fischer
All rights reserved


I'm proud to be a contributing author to the following series of humorous devotionals.
And check out my "Kid's Bible Dictionary" and pre-teen mysteries, also from Barbour.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.
Click on the picture.
I am the author of these books, but I have not been compensated for mentioning them on this blog or linking them to the seller's website. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

By Max Lucado, Published by Thomas Nelson
Max Lucado has a unique way with words, and his children's book Hermie A Common Caterpillar is no exception. With simple text and bright, watercolor illustrations, the story of Hermie unfolds.

Hermie wonders why he looks and feels so common. Whenever he asks God why, God simply answers, "I'm not finished with you yet." Then, one day, Hermie feels very tired. He gets into his cozy, leafy bed, and he sleeps. And while Hermie sleeps a transformation takes place. When he wakes up, Hermie discovers that God has done something grand. You can guess what it is. Every caterpillar that lives to adulthood knows the end of the story.

Parents, please share this book and its powerful message with your children. We are all special because God loves us, and He has a unique purpose for our lives. Whenever we slump into feeling ordinary, we know that we have hope because . . .God isn't finished with us yet!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

©text on this blog copyrighted 2012 by Jean Fischer unless otherwise credited. You may link to the blog, but please don't reprint the text without my permission.

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