I met one of my “oldest” friends for breakfast this morning. I have known her since I was 15 years old, and although we only lived in the same town for a little over a year, our friendship has endured all these years. She was my college roommate for almost three years and has been with me through thick and thin. No matter how long it has been since the last time we’ve seen each other, we are always able to pick up right where we left off. Today was no different.
We chatted about me. We chatted about her. We discussed our children. We talked about our jobs. We talked about life and the unexpected things that happen. We laughed as we reminisced about some of the good times we have shared. The time passed all too quickly (three hours just didn’t seem that long!) and then we had to part ways to attend the activities of our children. As I was partway home, she called my cell phone and asked if I was heading home. When I told her I was, she said she had something for me that reminded her of me, and was going to meet me at my house and give it to me.
She arrived a few minutes later and handed me a cute wooden plaque that said, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” She told me as we sat and talked, and then when she saw that phrase, it reminded her of me. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness. We’d spent the morning together, and she thoughtfully added an extra 1-2 hours to her trip to share that gift with me.
I LOVE that statement on the gift she gave me! (And not just because it is true.)
Maya Angelou said, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
If you think about it, we are all caterpillars journeying through life. Each experience adds to what we are and what we are becoming until…we become butterflies. Beautiful butterflies!
My mom focused on inner beauty with her children. She’d always say it’s great if you have a beautiful appearance (and to some degree, we don’t get to choose that. If we have it, it’s because we inherited it from someone else!) but true beauty, the important beauty, the beauty that means something is inner beauty. She always encouraged us to be as “pretty on the inside” as she thought we were on the outside.
Inner beauty is not without price. Life happens, we endure challenges and the changes it brings, and if we handle it right, the changes can positively impact our inner beauty. My mom always told me we can use the challenges that come our way to help us become better than we would otherwise have been; we can let the bad things that happen to us refine us, and help us develop real and lasting beauty–inner beauty–or we can allow them to canker our souls and destroy us.
I truly believe THAT is the most important thing we can do when the going is rough: use the terrible experience to help us become better people. It isn’t easy, but it IS possible.
When the unexpected events of 2009 began, a friend called and reminded me that no matter how bad everything looked at the moment, and no matter how terrible I envisioned my future would be, she wanted me to know it was not going to turn out to be QUITE as bad as I feared. And she was right. On March 18, 2009, I absolutely thought my children and I were headed to live in a cardboard box somewhere. Today we live in a home. I thought the huge, gaping hole in our hearts would never heal. But they are. But we’ve had to look for the good; look for the beauty. And have tried to create new beauty out of a very different set of circumstances.
Life, even an unexpected life, can be beautiful. We just have to endure the caterpillar phase, and the chrysalis stage, and look for the beauty that unfolds as we endure and then triumph over our challenges.
And we must never forget this truth: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”