Looking for Ladybugs

More often than I’d like to admit, I feel lost and entirely alone, even when I’m surrounded by people I love and admire. I sit in class, surrounded by cheerful, funny, and bright people – professors and students alike. I walk to work, and am greeted by kind and loving locals who always have a smile. I sit in church beside friends and strangers, and am united with them in song and prayer.

Part of it stems from the chemicals in my brain – my depression manifests itself as detachment and disinterest. I will draw into myself, away from everyone, and quietly slip into malaise and indifference. Part of it honestly stems from society right now – social media, while it can be used to connect us, can be entirely isolating. Part also is due to my busy schedule, trying to balance school, work, church, friends, and sleep (REALLY struggling with that whole sleep thing). It’s entirely overwhelming for me at times. Usually I manage to keep it together, but this past week has been tough.

What does this have to do with anything? Why am I sharing this?

The past few days have been tougher than normal. I just hit a rut and am still trying to climb out of it. I was feeling incredibly alone, despite the love of a friend who dropped everything to come listen to me vent and explain society, social nuances, and life in general to me (and she brought me a mango scented candle and a coke because she’s just an incredible human), and then did it again today when I texted on the verge of a freak-out.

Today, though, today was a ladybug day.

My mom loves ladybugs, and always has. Our home in Connecticut was sprinkled with little ladybugs: tiny glass ladybugs the size of your fingernail, little signs, etc. It wasn’t really until after my nana passed away that I came to love ladybugs. The weeks preceding her death were some of the hardest – watching her fight lung cancer and lose strength as I watched my mom and uncles fight to stay positive and prepare for the worst simultaneously. The day came when she finally returned home to her Father.

That same day, as we came home from the hospice wing of the local medical center, we entered the kitchen to find it covered – literally covered – with ladybugs. Hundreds of them. It felt akin to a ridiculous joke. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. We had been invaded by ladybugs in the middle of October, in the span of a few short hours. I recalled seeing this many ladybugs only once before, as a little girl when we lived in New York. The house on Scio would have the doorknobs and one of the sides of the house covered in the fall. But it wasn’t common to find this many ladybugs braving a brisk New England autumn.

We quickly decided it was a joke from Nana and set about trying to get rid of them. But from that point on, ladybugs became the symbol of “everything is going to be okay” for our family.

Fast forward to my mission. “Look for the ladybugs” became my mantra during the toughest times of my mission. It meant looking for the little blessings, the little reminders that God loves you, the little details that prove that He knows you perfectly. I shared it with a few companions and fellow missionaries occasionally, but especially with my closest friends that I served with.

The Lord sends each of us our own ladybugs, those little reminders specifically for us that He’s right there beside us, no matter how dark the days or how discouraged we are. Sometimes, for me, they are literally ladybugs. I find them in the strangest places – by the sink as I do dishes, on days that seem too cold for any living creature to willingly be out and about, or in places that are just ones that I would pass without a second glance. But more often, they are the little reminders, the little love notes that give me the strength to keep going for just another minute, another hour, another day.

20151020115143I had a ladybug moment today that was just so poignant. I was lazily cleaning my room, procrastinating homework and second guessing every single thought I had when a friend called. He just needed a listening ear, and I felt prompted to pull out my journal. The entry I was looking for was dated a year ago exactly – October 20, 2014. I instantly knew it was a ladybug.

I hope that what I said to this dear friend was what he needed. I’m not that great with words or conveying my own feelings (see my post on feelings and friendship). I know that the ladybug was exactly what I needed – a reminder that I am not forgotten, that I am loved, that my Father in Heaven is a mindful God, and that He hasn’t forgotten me, even when I feel like everyone else has left me (which I know is not true, by the way, but I’m only human). He knew that I needed to feel needed today, that I needed a reminder that my struggles were not unique to me, that I was a good friend, a good person, a good pineapple. That my trials were but a moment. That my confusion won’t last. That one day, it’ll all be worked out perfectly.

What are some of my ladybugs? Finding a note written in my journal from over a year ago by one of my companions. The warm clap of a hand on my shoulder from a professor who knows I’m doing my best. A text from a concerned friend. That random song that pops up when my iTunes is on shuffle that brings back a memory or two. Rediscovering a photo, a postcard, a favorite spot. A shaft of sunlight that just hits perfectly. The undeniable presence of the Holy Ghost. That scripture that just speaks to me when I need comfort. The hymn or song lyric that comes to mind in a moment of despair or sorrow. All of them are simple. Inconsequential to anyone else. But to me, they are the proof that the Lord knows me. That He knows how to be communicate with me, how to show His love for me. Note that it often comes through other people and their actions.

The conversation I had with my friend was a ladybug moment. I was reminded of the talk that President Uchtdorf gave in October of 2011 entitled “Forget Me Not” (the talk that won the hearts of women all over the world), specifically the reminder that he leaves with each of us:

wherever you are, whatever your circumstances may be, you are not forgotten. No matter how dark your days may seem, no matter how insignificant you may feel, no matter how overshadowed you think you may be, your Heavenly Father has not forgotten you. In fact, He loves you with an infinite love.

Just think of it: You are known and remembered by the most majestic, powerful, and glorious Being in the universe! You are loved by the King of infinite space and everlasting time!

I often think of what the Lord wants us to understand most, what is foundational to coming to know Him. I return always to the same principle: God is our loving Heavenly Father, who knows us personally and individually. He loves us enough to send us ladybugs. He is in those little details that mean the most to us, that remind us that we are not alone. We are not forgotten. We are of infinite worth to Him, and to our elder brother, Jesus Christ.

It’s not always easy to see the ladybugs. It requires practice. It takes faith in some ways. It always takes patience.

Let this post, although imperfect and chaotic, be a ladybug for you today. The Lord loves you. He wants you to recognize that He is in the details. That He is orchestrating these little reminders that He cherishes you, that He cares, that He knows you perfectly. That you’re His ladybug.

(sorry, men, to compare you to a ladybug, but it’s the sentiment that counts, eh?)

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