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Why "The Butterfly Project"

About eight years ago my family and I went to see a newly released documentary called The Flight of the Butterflies at an IMAX theatre in Toronto. I have always admired monarch butterflies, but it wasn’t until I saw this documentary that I became captivated by them. The documentary chronicled the research of Dr. Fred Urquhart and his wife Norah who committed 40 years of their lives to discover where monarch butterflies travel to for the winter months. Fred and Norah’s story is inspiring! But the journey of the monarch even more so.

Since seeing that film I have drawn butterflies, carved them into wood and soapstone, printed them, painted them, and raised them! One year I raised 25! I even have a caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly tattooed on my legs and plan to get a few more. My favourite colour is orange. And now I am working on something I call The Butterfly Project.

It’s not ‘just’ an obsession with a pretty thing but more a deep appreciation for the transformation that happens. A fully grown caterpillar is 2,700 times bigger than the egg it came from. Have you ever watched a caterpillar shed its skin? Or transform into a chrysalis? It looks painful. I can relate - healing and change can be painful at times. The chrysalis is a magnificent and beautiful thing. It’s marked with black and gold dots - GOLD dots! As time goes on, the outline of the wings becomes visible through the thinning skin until it is no longer green but black and orange. God didn’t spare a single detail with these tiny, fragile creatures. It might seem a bit strange, but I can see many parallels in my own journey of transformation to the monarch butterfly and the ministry God has called me to as well.

As I thought about what to call ‘this thing that God is calling me to’, I was thinking at the time primarily about having a cottage where a family could stay, not to escape their crisis but rather to have a space where they could return to calm, have rest, but still be connected, with a crisis counsellor and then service providers in their own community. The idea of a chrysalis came to me. There is a common misconception about the chrysalis phase. Unlike a cocoon, a chrysalis is an active, living being. A lot is going on with the chrysalis. The caterpillar changes, literally turns into black goo before its cells form into the butterfly that emerges. The only thing that you can do for a monarch caterpillar as it grows is foster an environment where it is free to do the thing it was created to do… eat and grow and transform into a butterfly. Repeat.

As I emerged from my own personal black goo, I realized that isn’t the end of the story, but only the beginning. Through impossible odds, the monarch butterflies we see here in south central Ontario are the 3rd generation of their one year life cycle. They fly in late summer, early fall, all the way to Mexico for the winter and start heading back north in the spring with a new generation. Less than 1% survive the process from egg to butterfly, so every single monarch you see is a miracle. Between predators, urban sprawl, global warming and pesticide use, the migration journey of the monarch is fraught with challenges and impossibilities. When Fred and Norah finally got to see with their own eyes the millions of butterflies gathered on the trees in the mountains of Mexico, there are no words to describe the absolute joy of fulfilling a lifelong journey - something like a glimpse into the Promised Land I’m sure. Seeing it with my own eyes is number one on my bucket list. But more-so, I long to be someone who can help people heal from the trauma they experience so they can be free to become who God made them to be, healing generations of abuse - stopping it dead in it’s tracks and clearing the path to a full and rich life.

The Butterfly Project is only the beginning.

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