New photo by Lauren Varney / Google Photos

I took this picture a few weeks ago, after dragging myself outside to tend to my tomato plants.  It was truly a gift, a meaningful gift.  You will understand why as you read this post.

I’m coming out of a rough summer.  Sickness joined forces with sadness, frustration, disappointment and discouragement and they got the best of me.  Recently the clouds began to lift and, for the first time in a while, I began to feel more like myself.

In the midst of all of this, I was drawn to the pocket in my prayer binder that I use to save meaningful papers.  I pulled one out and began to read it.  It was a photocopy of a church bulletin that a good friend gave to me when we lived in Vermont.  On this page, Father Tom, who I have never met, wrote something he titled, “Be Proactive”.   I began to read it again.  I am amazed at God’s timing.  This time, it was more than a meaningful devotion shared with my by a friend.  It was a personal letter of wisdom and encouragement that came directly from God, through Father Tom, at exactly the time that I needed it.

Here is what he wrote, word for word:

“Every day in our daily life there is a lot of problems and fear along with physical and mental distress.  We are many times reactive to the problems in life.  We start to accuse and curse everything and everybody, even God.  But Jesus calls us to be proactive.  I grew up on my father’s farm where we grow pepper and tea.  One day as I was helping my father to collect pepper, I saw a butterfly cocoon hanging on a twig.  I clipped the cocoon with the twig and took it home.  I kept watching it and after a few days I saw some movement in the cocoon but the butterfly did not emerge.  The next day I saw some more movement but the butterfly did not come out.  And the third day the same thing but the butterfly still did not come out.  I decided to to help the butterfly to get out of the cocoon.  I took a knife and slit the cocoon.  The butterfly crawled out.  I was surprised it didn’t have fully developed wings and couldn’t fly.  So I asked my father why the butterfly could not fly.  My father explained, “God arranged it in such a way that a caterpillar must struggle to get out of the cocoon.  It is the struggle that causes them to develop and that is how they get their strength and beauty but now you have destroyed its life by helping it.”  Similar things happen with us. God allows us to struggle in our lives.  It is His way to help us grow strong.  God arranges things so that at certain points in our life both spiritual and physical, we must struggle. That does not mean He is not with us, he is with us but still we have to struggle to be better disciples of Christ.  So let us not try to run away from the struggles we may have in our life or react to it but take it with a proactive mind and prove what we are.  God watches us close so that He will never let us fail, for He knows that everything has a reason.  Like the familiar poem says, “For every pain we must bear, for every burden, every care, there is a reason.  For every grief that bows the head, for every teardrop that is shed, there is a reason.  For every hurt, for every plight, for every lonely pain racked night, there is a reason.  But if we trust God as we should it will turn out for our good.  He knows the reason.”  God wants us to be like the lovely butterfly, He wants us to fully develop into His own beautiful image accepting and facing our daily struggles.”

-Fr. Tom (St Mary Star of the Sea, Newport, Vermont, 2014)

Thank you, Father Tom, for your words of wisdom.  I’m passing on your blessing in hopes that it will encourage someone else in the midst of their struggles.

I’d also like to share a song that goes along beautifully with what Father Tom shared.  Take encouragement from the words of this song if you are currently in the midst of struggle and pain, and especially these words:

“When the waves are taking you under, hold on just a little bit longer.  He knows that this is gonna make you stronger.”

“Stronger” by Mandisa