Why couldn’t it be “follow the butterflies?!”

Catchy line to lead to a profound story… How Butterflies Saved My Life.

Let me start at the beginning (it’s a very good place to start). My family goes on a vacation to the Smoky Mountains every Fall. It’s called TAFFY (Time Away for Family and Yahweh). What you need to know, however, is that prior to all of us kids getting married, we were allowed to bring a significant other. My brother brought a girlfriend; I brought a boyfriend (my sister has been married ever since we started TAFFY, so this didn’t really apply to her).

I had been dating this guy for a few years and he had been to TAFFY with us several times. It was a very serious relationship; most people thought we were headed down the aisle. But things started to get rocky in the relationship during the Summer. Those rough times, however, didn’t prepare me for the break-up that he initiated days before TAFFY. I was heartbroken, devastated. I didn’t want to go to TAFFY, I wanted to stay home and wallow. But as that wasn’t an option, I went to TAFFY and wallowed. I did what was expected and had an o…k…a…y time, but I was still heart broken.

Then two wonderful things happened; two things will be in my memory until the day I die.

I was laying on the couch in the den one afternoon, wallowing in my heartache and trying to not think when my Dad walked down the stairs. I must have looked pathetic with tears streaming down my cheeks onto the couch cushion I was leaning against. He didn’t say anything, he just came and sat down by me and pulled me into a hug. I started sobbing even harder. Through all this female angst, my Dad didn’t say a word. He just stayed with me, hugging me, for a half hour. When I finally calmed down, he pulled away enough to look at me and he smiled and said, “It will get better. God’s got a plan.” Then he got up and walked back upstairs.

I stayed on that couch for another hour thinking about what he had said. It was something so simple, something I should have thought of myself. But it took a Dad’s wisdom to guide me. My heart wasn’t healed because of what he said, but it wasn’t bleeding anymore.

Then came thing #2; what I like to think of as the fruition of what Dad had promised.

The next day a few of us went hiking. Most of our hiking group ran on ahead, but Dad and I hiked together.  As the hiking photographer, I had my camera with me, but I wasn’t paying too much attention to what was around me. Then, something really cool happened. A butterfly fluttered around me for a moment and then landed lightly on a leaf about three feet from me. Instinct kicked in and I lifted my camera to take a shot of the beautiful creature all the while thinking that it was a long shot as there was no way the insect was going to stay still long enough to let me take a photo. Much to my surprise, however, she did stay still! I took a few shots and then though, “oh what the heck,” and tried to get a bit closer thinking that as soon as I took a step, she would fly away. But she didn’t. Instead, she started to open and close her wings, beaconing me closer. Ever step toward the lovely lady I took a few shots just in case she scampered away, but every step closer, she only seemed to pose even more, slowly opening and closing her wings in a mesmerizing way.

Two feet from her, * click click click *

One foot from her, * click click click *

Leaning in, * click click * finally coming within six inches of her * click! * I was able to take photos so close to her I could see the feathers on her wings! After giving me at least 20 close-ups, she gracefully flapped her wings and lifted from the leaf and fluttered away…

I looked at my dad in amazement. Things like that don’t happen on hikes! If you see wildlife, it’s from a distance. Birds, insects, bears… NOTHING let’s you get that close! My dad was watching the whole interaction, smiling. He winked at me and we walked on.

Now buckle up, because this story is just starting to get good.

After that first encounter with my butterfly, Dad and I kept hiking up the mountain both lost in our own thoughts. We had accepted that the butterfly experience was amazing, but not giving it too much thought. Then about 10 minutes later, a different butterfly, this one of bright yellow with black trim, fluttered around me twice, then landed deftly on a nearby flower. I thought, ‘who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky twice,’ and proceeded to start this shooting process again! And it worked, I got within inches of her and she merely flatted her wings gracefully as if posing for each shot. Dad stood back and smiled a knowing smile. Another hiker was walking by and saw this scene. He had a camera with him so he started shooting to. He stepped closer and closer and, seeing this, I stepped back thinking that I had plenty of shots; I might as well let this guy get a few. Ladies and gentleman, this hiker did the exact same thing that I did in his approach, but he wasn’t within six feet of her when she fluttered away!

This scenario didn’t play out once or twice that day, but rather, this happened at least 10 times that day! A butterfly would flutter by me, settle on a flower or leaf or tree, pose for as many shots as I wanted, and then take off. I would be within inches of the creatures, but any other passersby couldn’t get within five feet! People were marveling at this entire experience!

Then came the point where I had no choice but to accept that this was God talking to me. Dad and I stopped off at a cove on the train; it was part of a creek bed and it made for a nice snack break. We had hiked this trail many times before and new the cove well. Never before had I seen the sight that awaited me. In the cove that was usually void of any creatures at all were at least 200 midnight blue butterflies swirling in flight, landing on stones, dancing in elaborate tangos in the air! I stopped and stared, not quite sure if I could believe my eyes. After shooting at last 50 shots of the scene from afar, I looked back at my Dad and said, “Should I risk it?” He laughed and said, “Go for it!”

So I did… I took slow, quite step after slow quite step closer to the cove closing the dozen or so feet of space between me and the delicate creatures with painstaking stealth. As I drew nearer however, I realized that my stealth were for not, the closer I got the more I realized that these creatures were here for me and they weren’t going to leave without saying hello. So I took a deep breath and stepped into their midst and watched in amazement as they swirled around me with beauty and grace… it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! Once I caught my breath I began snapping photos of my experience so as to never forget the moment and the uniqueness of the event.

There is no way to place into words what that experience looked like. Only Dad was able to see the full scope of what happened to me that day and he seemed to know from the beginning that God was talking to me, telling me it was going to be okay, that He had bigger and better plans for my life. I have always known that there was a God, but to have him speak so intimately to me was both awe-inspiring and humbling…

Butterflies don’t allow human beings to be within inches of them outside of butterfly sanctuaries, it just doesn’t happen. But it did that day. Much like a butterfly enters a cocoon only to gain new life, I too was free of the cocoon of my past and able to be free to live the life God had in mind for me.

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  1. * Sis says:

    LOVE this … and have no words.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 5 months ago

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