It was one of those Monday mornings in early fall when I realized it was time to move on into a new season, but I wasn’t quite there yet. I was struggling.
I grabbed at the minutes, wanting more of them, before I had to pack up my briefcase and head into the office that I called my home away from home, to be with my work family. I knew I owed them my best, but was not always sure how to give it. Thunder hit. Our dog Sam and cat Rose both hated the booms and ran into the room. For a few more minutes, I decided coziness and pets were the best of gifts and resisted the pull I felt inside to get up and go.
Instead, I pulled open my notebook to record my thoughts on where I found myself that day, the repentance, requests, my hopes, God’s Words to me—a habit I had fallen into years before, not long after I started reading several chapters of the Bible each morning. The Words I read and my heart’s stirrings sank deeper into me as I wrote. And that was how I discovered writing brought me more joy than any form of expression I had yet experienced. Deep was what I wanted. I wanted to move more deeply into life, deeper into my faith, writing was the catalyst.
Lightening hit and Rose jumped from my lap to take cover under the bed. Sam rolled over, landing on my feet. Suddenly, from a few drizzles, there came a torrential downpour outside my window, and I was relieved I’d waited to get on my bike. I closed my books, opened my computer and tried to type the words I’d been struggling with for weeks, then deleted entire paragraphs. With frustration, I stopped.
It was early, but I needed sustenance. Sam followed me downstairs and I made a sandwich. Our bathroom had been under construction since the previous spring. Were I to get frustrated at how long it was taking, I only needed to consider how long I had been “under construction”.
Our home improvement, orchid lover, plant saver, artisan, craftsman, carpenter, contractor named John, with his head under a hood, walked in and out of the kitchen as I ate and read the morning paper. He was focused on the task at hand, sawing tiles down to size in the garage, carrying them back and forth, upstairs and down. John saved my own two orchids—took them home and nursed them for months. He got cited once for having noxious weeds in his yard. His argument was that they were wild growing prairie plants that he had planted himself. Someone wanted him to grow grass instead. John won.
John was also our dog Sam’s best buddy. Sam was emotional, moody at best, full of love, but probably borderline depressive. John always made our old dog crazy happy, even with Sam’s cancer. “Have you had breakfast, John?” He walked past me and I just barely deciphered that he had said he was starving and could eat anything. I made him a sandwich and he continued to walk back and forth, rain dripping, several more times. “If not, that’s good, I decided to have lunch. I was starving. Come on, John, sit down.”
“Wow, this looks healthy,” he said about the layers of turkey and swiss, lettuce, tomato and mayo on Breadsmith’s multi-grain accompanied by carrots, chips and a handful of dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses.
“The breakfast of champions!” We both took big bites and started talking butterflies.
“Monarchs migrate,” he said.
“They’re the symbol of hope!” I said. I knew that much, but who knew that it took four generations for them to travel from Milwaukee to Mexico. I didn’t. “A butterfly can fly that far?” I couldn’t imagine. “How long does each generation live?”
“Oh, it’s amazing how the four generations work out so that the monarch population survives.” He suddenly lit up with excitement and pulled out his phone. “I found a pupa on the rim of a glass on my porch last week! I’ve got several short videos here of it transforming into a butterfly.”
“Let me see that?” I was suddenly more enthralled by the process than I had ever been in science class. There it was, a caterpillar hanging upside down, creating a shell around itself. “It reminds me of the beam me up on Star Trek.” I said. Maybe a little of me, I didn’t say.
“That’s the chrysalis forming.” The poor caterpillar really put up a struggle before it was entirely encased inside its new green wrap. “You gotta see this part!” He clicked on the next video. “The shell turns black! Look at that!” He pointed. Then we watched together as the incredible little creature started working it’s way back out. “I had to run to Menard’s so I missed the part when the butterfly first appeared. I was so bummed.” He showed me the next clip of the bright orange and black colored wings folded together as the butterfly just sat there. It was absolutely still.
“Why doesn’t it fly away?”
“It has to pump fluid into its wings and then they have to harden before it can fly. That takes a while.” He finished eating, said thanks, and headed back to the tiles. I sat there for a while, stunned by what had just transpired. I thought back to the words I’d been struggling with—just as I have been struggling this past week—I only wanted to offer some words of hope, but I didn’t know how.
That day, many years ago now, I could have missed what I realize now was a Divine appointment. It wasn’t about making John a sandwich. It was about what John offered me. The sustenance I was looking for that morning. The metaphor of hope.
The struggle must come. Through writing, for me, there is transformation waiting. It can’t be rushed. Slowly, never without struggle, rarely without pain—I think of John and his butterfly—God does His work in a yielded heart. Words, these prayers, receive wings to travel places I will never be able to go.
I’m never sure where they land, but of one thing I am sure. God, in His glory, is always working for the good of those who love Him. And if, like me, during these times of turbulence and war, you wonder what glory looks like, here’s a clue: God makes His home in your heart—that’s where His glory shines brightest. His goodness may not look like what we imagined. But as Hope takes flight, we can be certain it is for the good of His Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. He will not forsake us. He is with us. May His glory shine through you in the darkness. Like the monarch, take flight!
Photos with my gratitude to artists: Annie Spratt, Tom Barrett, Josh Nuttall, Neelabh Raj, Ekrem Osmanoglu. Feature photo: Clicker Babu. Unsplash. Thank you.