Every year I manage to be out of town when my peonies bloom. I wait all year for their appearance and then, I’m gone. It pains me to no end. My peonies burst forth without me, glory unseen.

So this year I call my friend. “Hey, my peonies are going to be blooming like crazy. Go gather a vase for yourself and enjoy them for me.”

My friend politely declines. There are just so many doggone ants that come off those peonies, she says.

Do you not have a thumb on your hand to squash them? I reply, and we both laugh. Yes, thumb-and-all, she is turning down peonies because they come laden with ants.


I get off the phone and it hits me: I do this ant-and-peony thing with my life. With my life.

It’s the strangest sort of temptation, really, to let the cost eclipse the reward. You forget the glory of the flower blooming. What you remember is the irritation of chasing down those crazy black ants.

Have we not all been there?

I find it a constant inner exercise to choose how I’m going to “frame” something. If I travel to speak at a women’s conference, will I let the airport delays and lost luggage overshadow the sheer joy of seeing God at work in a different part of His body?

Some days, I confess I do. And that disturbs me. You can miss the life God is giving you by making “no” a habit.

When you try your hand at something new and it turns out less than you hoped for…are you going to frame that as “failure”? Or will you see it as a learning curve?


The Bible claims that how we think about a matter is what actually shapes the experience. And so we learn, if we are wise, the gentle art of reframing. You decide, consciously or unconsciously, whether you will frame the relationship or experience or memory around the peony–or the ants.

The world that God has made, even in its present faded-glory state, is a great smorgasbord of possibility. I love Paul’s words that all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ. It all comes to a great, glorious Yes! But in the now, there is no peony to be had that doesn’t come with ants hidden in the petals. There’s no experience, no relationship that does not exact a price.

One of the hidden laws of the universe, it seems, is that the more possibilities you can’t let yourself enjoy because, potentially, there’s a problem, a drawback, a price to pay–the less possibilities in life you will actually see. The eyes of your soul get cataracts.

You become, then, a woman who lives by her “no’s.” Though you stand knee deep in a river of water, you are dying of thirst. Life–glorious, peony- filled life–is happening all around you. But you are blind to everything except closed doors and the people who disappoint and where you failed. All those ants.

“To them that have shall more be given.” Jesus’s mysterious words, they haunt me sometimes. I know my own tendency to overlook what I have…in a futile search for what I eludes me.

I’ll share a little secret with you about this gentle art of “reframing.” When you are reeling from disappointment and the thing you don’t want to happen has happened and you know, because you do know, that God is somehow in this, even this–then pay special attention to falling asleep and waking up.

As you drift off to sleep and as you come awake, your brain is in its most molten, changeable state. In those moments, pray. Ask God to help you see the possibilities hidden in the problem. Thank Him for the good unseen. Good He has promised to bring. Make some simple choices about how you are going to “frame” this thing that threatens to undo you.

You can actually make choices that stick about how you will let this thing register in your soul. Is it going to be peonies–or ants?

I’m voting for peonies.

What helps you most in this gentle art of reframing?