Waiting: Growing Stronger, and the Butterfly
“As I wait upon the Lord, I grow stronger…” the words to a praise song that I sang with all of my heart in college. I meant it. Yet, how many times was I grumbly? Or not waiting as patiently as I could. As a Kindergarten Teacher, I taught my students these words to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb:
“I am waiting patiently, patiently, patiently,
I am waiting patiently, for MY turn!”
This was the jingle to sing until it was your turn to get a drink of water, or have a turn to pick out an activity for indoor recess. I also taught this fun song to my children. Sometimes, you just have to wait!
As I think about the many years, I would request from a family member the Butterfly Kit for Christmas. One year, my daughter, about 5 at the time, couldn’t wait to get the butterflies! The box sat on the top of our refrigerator waiting for the right spring month…for if they hatch too early, we didn’t want to release them into a snow-covered world! Although she understood, it was so hard to wait, not just to wait, but then, when we opened the box, we had to send a post card in for the eggs, another 2 weeks of waiting!! We set up the habitat, and read books from the library on butterflies, all sorts. My favorite, of course, was the Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. Here the colors, days of the week, night and day, different foods and counting could be explored by little fingers. (And you and I know, that little fingers love holes!) It was easy to do in Spanish as well. (Did you ever notice that every color used in the food art was in the wings of the butterfly?) Non -fiction about life cycles, fiction, Angelina the Ballerina, and even religious. My 5- and 7-year-olds, even my 3-year-old were prepared for these monarch butterflies- so were their friends and grandparents.
The anticipation built, as the eggs that came sat there in the little plastic container, and we waited. We read more. Finally, they hatched, and they ate. Oh, did they eat and grow…just like Mr. Carle said they would! When it was time, habitats for the long-anticipated creatures were kept high, but within sight. Real leaves, and water fresh- every day. Nothing escaped the climbing and curious 3-year-old, so his job was to make sure everything was secure. As we waited. We read more.
Books and videos at every level were procured from our amazing library. We watched videos of migrating butterflies from the south, and looked at a globe to imagine how they traveled. My 7 year old and her friends colored the migration patterns on a copy of a map. We sang, “If I Were a Butterfly, I’d thank You, Lord, for Giving Me Wings” from the recording of Hi God! I had danced to since my own childhood. It was a joyful waiting, and exciting time. We made butterfly crafts out of clothes pins and coffee filters, using Crayola Markers and a few drops of water to watch the colors combine. After it dried, we’d make a magnet out of it. As well as finger paint for the younger ones to make symmetrical images mixing primary colors. Taking the specially coated paper, folding it in half, and drawing ½ a butterfly on it, folding the paper back and taping it to the tub walls, 3 kids could step into the tub and the mess could remain contained! Crafts at differentiated levels, but I didn’t even know the terminology at the time, I was just meeting the needs of each child at their own level. Letting them explore and mix colors, create and try new things. It was a time of wonder and awe at what God had made! We discovered things together and their perspective was beautiful! Those caterpillars grew, and the magnets of pom poms on my fridge and that of grandparents let everyone know, it was almost winged butterfly time. It was often a time for me to participate in that wonder and awe as the children made such wonderful things!
Finally, the caterpillars were big and strong enough to create chrysalis. While in the cocoons, oh what fun that was to dramatize! Every child loved this time. Imagining what could come out!?!? No moving the habitat at this point. We went to the Brookfield Children’s Zoo in Chicagoland, Hamill Family Play Zoo, and they had all of the materials to literally recreate every portion of the butterfly life cycle! What joy! The kids could curl up in the smallest little position, then imagine how they would grow, and burst out with wings and fly and fly through the room. The joy, and the freedom, the beauty and fullness of expression was phenomenal! When they drew pictures, no matter what year, it was never old. No matter how they told the story at their age, it was real and it was beautiful.
When the caterpillars hatched or emerged from the old, what came forth, sometimes had to struggle out. But in that struggle, it grew in strength and could then fly. It had to develop it’s muscle system through the time of hatching to fully develop and get strong enough to survive for its migration. One would come forth at a time. OH! The excitement! The creative names! The fun of having such wonderful pets to feed with all of what we knew they needed…watermelon, and flowers, leaves, wet fruit and veggies from our garden- strawberries and cucumbers. It was a feast! Every child had a turn at the end after watching mom or an older person feed the hatched butterflies. Every person knew this was delicate and a very special job. Then when it was the 3 year old’s turn, he was so very proud, and he was the first to have one fly out and land on him. He was tickled! Ear to ear was his smile with his long thick lashes…our hearts melted, everyone was so very happy for him. After all that waiting, something happened that was not expected. Something beautiful that no one could have planned. A little after this, Butterfly Kisses was the song released, that is now used to capture so many meaningful moments.
How many times, we have to wait? How many times do we find ourselves learning, but not in the way we expected? How many times is God patient with us, and we are like the 3 year old…all we want to do it just touch it? God is patient and kind, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. When we read 1 Cor 13, we read about love. Can we put our own names in there? Can we wait patiently? Are we kind? Do we endure all things? We all have to wait…can we wait in joyful anticipation like the children did? Trusting the next thing would happen, even if it wasn’t as soon as what we wanted?
Waiting for many things: For school to start (yes, we have all the supplies and the school requirements), can we do something like a bike ride as a family? One last trip to Confession and Adoration as a family? One last trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and wash their windows, or weed their gardens? Is there something we can do while waiting? Especially if it helps us grow in virtue or grace? Involving the children in the decision…can be a helpful key. My 16 year old son decided to go to a soup kitchen with a friend. He decided, not me. We wait: For a child to be born? Can we bring the family a meal? Or offer to pick up things from the store? Can we help with the other children? Make a scavenger hunt with bubbles at the end? Can we wait? For a last summer trip? Can we write a postcard to a someone who lives alone? Reach out and give some extra produce or flowers from our garden to the neighbors? What is it that God is truly calling us to? We all are called to wait…some to hear their name called by our Lord. There are so many things…Prayers matter the most. Our own prayers and our children’s prayers offered in innocence. What a gift!
After a time, from the habitat, we would release the butterflies. My daughter got to do this, as it was her gift. This was a time for gathering, as many who could come-would come. One year, we released them near our butterfly garden, as the flowers were from that type of a mix. (My friend with intense allergies grew milkweed, so that all of the butterflies would come back every year.) All who gathered could try with one, to have it land on them. (Of course- bright colors helped.). Truly, it was a joyful and happy time. Once they were out, we could all enjoy them. We could also visit their cousins in the butterfly garden at the zoo, before going again to Hamill Family Play Zoo. The joy of them flying, still to this day, I delight in. God’s creation, at it’s finest, after waiting and struggle becomes what He always intended. It’s easier with a butterfly sometimes than with our own hearts, but we trust in His good design and purpose for the waiting. We can’t always see what He is doing or why, but in the end, watching the butterfly migration is one of the most wonderful wonders of America!
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31)