There is a point during any big life transition where you aren’t where you used to be, but not quite yet where you are going. And this middle part can be a very unsettling place to be. Which is the theme of this post from 2013.
My hope in sharing it with you again in this series is that it will encourage you in whatever changes or big transitions you might be facing. If you happen to be in that middle part, take heart and have faith. I promise you that miracles are taking place. Things are coming together. I am living proof.
As if the pretty light and hints of fall weren’t enough, probably my very favorite thing about this time of year is seeing monarch butterflies.
Every year about this time, the monarchs can be seen on their annual migration to the mountains of northern Mexico. They make their way through my neck of the woods…a pit stop along the way before meeting up with the rest of their clan and heading south through central Texas.
Image courtesy US forest service
According to their website:
Eastern North American monarchs fly south using several flyways then merge into a single flyway in Central Texas. It is truly amazing that these monarchs know the way to the overwintering sites even though this migrating generation has never before been to Mexico!
Yes. Amazing creatures indeed.
Although most of us are accustomed to seeing butterflies flying around, it’s important to remember that this is only one part of their incredible lifecycle. You might recall from grade school that the entire life cycle of a butterfly consists of four distinct phases: egg, larva, pupa, adult.
Note: when I originally wrote this post in 2013, I had only seen photos of the lifecycle, but in 2020 and 2021 I actually got to witness this amazing process first hand when I fostered the eggs through their chrysalis stage. The rest story is the same as the original post, but the following photos were taken during my fostering experience.
You can ready more about my experience in 2020 here:
I also fostered monarch larvae in 2021 and shared the process on Instagram in these two story highlights:
I’ll admit I’m not super crazy about bugs in general, but I have a whole, new appreciation for monarch larvae, especially the middle part – the chrysalis stage – which really intrigued me. Because that’s where the transformation takes place. So after seeing it up close, I got curious and decided to google it. And, my friends, what I discovered is that process is nothing short of miraculous.
It all starts when the caterpillar reaches maturity. Hormonal changes inside the caterpillar cause it to lose all interest in feeding, so it finds a little place to hang from its hind legs, and it is here that the metamorphosis begins.
Inside the caterpillar, enzymes get released that digest all of the caterpillar tissue. For the first few days, as the chrysalis forms on the outside, what’s left on the inside is nothing more than a ‘rich culture medium’. But within that sack of fluid, specialized cells (which are actually present, albeit dormant, in the caterpillar) called ‘imaginal disks’ start growing. There are different kinds of ‘imaginal disks’ for each part of the butterfly’s body and so then for the next several days, these cells differentiate and grow into the various tissues and organs.
Finally, after about two weeks or so, the adult butterflies are ready to emerge, and a new life is ready to begin.
Utterly amazing right!??
During the course of researching and reading various articles, a couple of things about his process really stood to me. The first being, that during this pupa stage (the chrysalis) there is a period of time when it appears from the outside that nothing is happening. And the same is true on the inside…a period of time when this amazing creature is nothing more than an ‘embryonic soup’ so to speak. There’s nothing about the pupa that tells you that it used to be a caterpillar, but there’s also nothing about it that would indicate that it will someday be a monarch. So to the naked eye…it’s just kind of in limbo. Or suspended animation.
The other thing that spoke to me about this phase in a monarch’s lifecycle was that from the moment the caterpillar stopped eating, nothing new was added to the mix. Everything that was needed for the butterfly to become a butterfly…all of it was already present in the caterpillar (and even to some degree present in the eggs from which the caterpillar grew). Sure those special cells in the caterpillar were in their infant stage. And yes, they were dormant. But the thing is…they were already present. They were already there. Seeds of life planted long ago, just waiting for the right time.
As I type this out, I can’t help the tears that are spilling out all over my keyboard. Because as a Christian, this process has obvious spiritual overtones…life, death, and resurrection certainly come to mind. But I would also like to suggest that in addition to possibly an over-arching theme of life, this idea of metamorphosis and transformation can apply to many different times in our lives. And probably more specifically to my own story…that time in my life after my girl left for college when I felt so empty. The feeling of nothingness. Knowing that I was no longer who I was before, but yet not quite who I was going to be.
I can testify to the fact that although nothing appears to be changing on the outside, it’s just because we don’t have eyes to see it. Because truly…that middle part? It is a time of life so full of grace. And I promise you that miracles are taking place. Things are coming together. You have everything you need…it just takes a little time. A little patience. And a whole lot of faith.
But oh the joy when you get your wings….
I would just like to close here by expressing my gratitude to my friends Kelly and Kim for originally sharing this process so many years ago and opening my eyes to this miracle of life which has touched my heart so profoundly.
And finally, I offer my thankfulness to my Heavenly Father. For His grace in my nothingness. For transforming my life. For giving me wings.