Monday, May 21, 2012


One afternoon last week, I took a field trip to the nearest shopping mall and paid good money for the opportunity to have poisonous insects crawl on me so I could take their portraits. Now before you go sending Allen concerned emails about my medication levels, let me clarify that they were a very particular sort of insects, specifically Dannaus plexippus, the monarch butterfly. (They're only poisonous if eaten.)

We in north Texas have the pleasure of hosting and watching the monarch population from the northeastern United States during both their fall migration to and their spring migration from their wintering grounds in Mexico. My nature-loving husband has intentionally filled our backyard with plants they find attractive or appetizing. (Thanks, Mom and Dad Moore.)

Last year I heard about an even better opportunity to see them, namely a festival sponsored by our Kiwanis Club. It's indoors in a mesh pavilion at least as big as our living room and lined with flowers butterflies like. Visitors receive a cotton swab soaked in a fruity sports drink to attract the desired attention and walk around gazing and snapping photos to their hearts' content. Last year I was not up to going, but this time determination and curiosity got the better of me.

The butterflies flocked in greatest numbers to the young children. Some little ones wore as many as 10 monarchs about their person at a time! These butterflies were not at all skittish of people. Some even settled on me for a bit. They may not be the latest must-have accessories, but I wasn't complaining.

This one rode around on my shirt for a quarter of an hour.

In addition to the simple joy of communing with these lovely creatures God saw fit to make beautiful as well as useful, the organizers also posted several educational posters about the habits and life cycle of the butterflies. Their lives are actually quite brief, which saddened me; an annual migration may encompass as many as six generations of butterflies.

One finally found my cotton swab. See the hairs on his back? The dark nodules on the rear wings near the body, as I understand, indicate this one is a male.

This was the only pipevine swallowtail I observed, and there were a smattering of moths in addition to the monarchs.

It was amazing to be close enough to see their faces and how the bodies are spotted like the wings.

Checking the time

The shadow is so birdlike here.
Butterflies have taken over our home while we were unaware. My thirty-ninth birthday was inadvertently the year of the butterfly. My mother gave me a Tervis tumbler marked with a purple butterfly and my sister gave me butterfly stationery as a gift. Then we realized that a birthday banner a friend had sent was also emblazoned with butterflies. Over the next few days at home, we found more and more of them about, on the window, on the table, in the china hutch, and we realized that butterflies had become "my thing."

Christian Easter symbolism often incorporates a butterfly as a symbol of hope and resurrection. Butterflies remind us that sometimes the darkness is not death but a drawn curtain setting the stage for a most glorious transformation. Like living icons, they illustrate the gospel truth that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor. 5:17).  A purple butterfly also happens to be the symbol for lupus in the way a pink ribbon is the symbol for breast cancer. (One distinctive symptom of systemic lupus is a rash across the cheeks called a malar or butterfly rash.) It is fitting, I suppose, that butterflies have overrun us, reminding us that even in chronic illness there is hope of new life.

On that afternoon last week, I didn't mind being overrun one bit.

Thank You, Lord,
for all the glorious creatures You have made for our delight as well as survival,
for senses to appreciate Your handiwork,
for awakening me to its source in You,
for voices and images from the past, unearthed in the process of daily duty,
for reading my late grandparents' love for me in paper and ink,
for a chance to shed accumulated belongings and meet needs in the process,
for a weekday lunch with my love,
for strength to visit the butterflies this year,
for the frozen yogurt stand next door to the festival,
for a surprise package of tea and more butterflies from a friend,
for my parents' safe return from their vacation,
for Allen's enjoyment of his two-wheeled commute days,
for his protection when he lost a pedal,
for a family vehicle with enough cargo space for the ailing bike,
for gifts from the Carolinas saying, "We missed you,"
for two insurance snafus unsnarling at the end of the week,
for the helpful prayers of friends,
for freedom to give as well as receive,
for a long phone visit with a friend who has been entrusted with deep sufferings,
for laughter together over a movie and dinner,
for a good story, entrance to another world, another life,
for hands (and paws) held,
for the birds' enjoyment of the second feeder set up for them,
for honest, challenging sermon words about ambition's poisonous effects on souls and discipleship.
(still counting gifts, these #6008-6031)

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