Three years ago, at the end of June, my daughter Arlynne was getting ready to embark on a new adventure. She had an overwhelming, self-sacrificing need to serve God with her time and energy and that summer that meant joining a mission who focuses on children. I had served with the same mission when i was a teenager. She was about to spend 8 weeks travelling to different communities in Ontario and teaching kids at churches, at camps and in people’s homes about God’s unfailing love for them.
Before they sent the kids out on their summer adventures, all the teens had to spend some time in training. So on a Sunday afternoon at the end of June, we loaded our truck with all 6 of our kids and drove to the training centre in a town a couple of hours away. Arlynne was excited. She had no doubt that this is where God wanted her for the summer and she was ready.
As her mom, I believe there comes a time in every parent’s life when she (or he) is asked how much we trust God. Do we trust Him to provide for me? Maybe that isn’t so hard a question. Do I trust Him to guide me? Not too hard either. Do we trust Him to look after me? He said He would. Can I trust Him with my kids? Now, that might be the limit. I can place a lot of things into God’s hands, believing that He’ll look after it but my kids? That is when the possessiveness comes in. God gave me my kids so that means they are mine, right? He can have anything as long as He doesn’t touch my kids. But that isn’t His take on it. He does bless us with children, of that I have no doubt, but I also know, am absolutely certain, that He loves my kids infinity more than I do. His love is unconditional. Unlimited. Absolutely faithful. He can love my kids far better than I can. And He does. So when He asks me if I trust Him to look after my kids, how can I say no? I couldn’t then and I can’t even now.
We arrived at the training centre and it was full of excited teens, concerned parents and lots of siblings. As often happens with younger kids, our younger kids started getting restless and so they slowly, in pairs, started making their way outside to the playground. It wasn’t long until all 8 of us were out there, working off some energy. I don’t remember how it happened but we soon all became aware of a butterfly that had come to join our little party. The most amazing thing about it was that it landed on one of us and it didn’t leave. It was passed from hand to hand until all of us had had this little butterfly on us. All of us. Even the 3 year old twins had a turn. When it was time to go we physically (and gently) had to remove our little winged friend and put it onto the playground equipment. We had taken a number of photos of the butterfly but I soon forgot about it. Until about 5 weeks later.
We had gone through every parent’s nightmare. The knock on the door late at night. The police officer who needed to speak to us. Did we have a daughter way up north at Camp…? We did. Then the blow. “I’m sorry but there has been an accident and your daughter has passed away.” In a flash, everything changed. Without warning. Our lives got turned upside-down. What followed was shock, many phone calls, friends and family gathering at our home, spilling out onto the front lawn. Crying. Praying. Comforting. Then planning the service to say good-bye. To lay my baby to rest.
The day before the service, I lay in bed. I needed to say something at my daughter’s Celebration of Life service. I prayed “What do You want me to say?” when, all of a sudden, I remembered. I remembered the butterfly. I suddenly saw, not only God’s presence, as represented by this brave little insect but a picture of His Grace. The grace that is always there. That isn’t afraid of how rough I will be with it, just like those little 3-year-old fingers. The grace that won’t leave. I can ignore it, I can turn my back on God but He is still there. He is still lavishing me with His Grace. And not only me, about every single person He has created.
I still love butterflies. Over the past 3 years, I have received and bought quite a few butterfly things. I can see some sort of butterfly in almost every room in my home. And outside, I have planted those plants that butterflies love. Some might think that I think of Arlynne when I see one and I guess that would be a fair assumption. It isn’t my first thought though. Even though we have a “butterfly shortage” I am often blessed with a butterfly in my garden, and with it, a reminder that God is still here, beside me. He is still pouring His grace on me.
Today is Arlynne’s 3rd Anniversary of her arrival in Heaven. I miss her now and always will but I will also see God’s Grace, in this and every other season and Thank Him. I don’t deserve it but I am so very, very grateful.