I am going to share something that many don't know about me, some of you I'm sure have already heard it so please bear with me through it all. This story reminds me everyday how God knows all, long before we do.
About 5 and a half years ago I got one of those forbidden tattoos. I never found tattoos all that intriguing and honestly I'm not sure what propelled me to drive to the tattoo parlor that morning. Never before in my life had I wanted a tattoo. But here is the story behind this tattoo and how it leads to our lives today.
I graduated high school in May, 2001. About a week after I left for Traverse City Michigan. I went up to Little Eden Camp and worked there for the summer. I was dating someone at the time, but very unhappy with him. All the college kids there were either happily dating or in the process of finding love that summer. I remember sitting on the deck at the lodge having a bit of quiet time to myself and 3 small butterflies flew right on by me. And for some reason it sent me into a complete daydream wondering what my life ahead holds....which automatically led me to wonder who I would marry or even if I would. I knew I was off to college in a few short months, so with that I made the decision to pray daily for my future husband. I know that sounds silly because at that time I had no idea who it was or whether I even knew him at that point.
I made it through the first semester of college doing great with this newfound commitment, and then the second, and then....with that my college life started to lead me into some wild times, where slowly I began to forget to pray. I would pray only as life got tough or over big exams....but never praying anymore for my future spouse. I was living a life that could of very easily hurt my husband. And believe it or not, it was yet another butterfly that brought me back to my senses.
It was a night in December 2004 that I couldn't sleep, so I laid in bed with a pencil and a notebook and caught myself to daydream as I wrote. I don't know if any of you ever catch yourself doodling while you are on the phone or kind of in a daze, but that's what I was doing. Without thinkin' what I was doing my pencil began to draw; first a little star that was more like a trinkle than anything (2 of them actually) and then a butterfly....and that's when the tears began to flow.
On my notebook a saw a small little butterfly, that once again reminded me to pray for him whoever he was. So, as the night went on I started praying again....and slowly began to realize that the way I was living my life was definately not honoring our marriage. (once again, still not married or knowing who he was). So after not sleeping almost all night, first thing in the morning I called my friend Emily and said, "you want to go with me to get a tattoo?" I think she was pretty shocked, matter of fact....I WAS SHOCKED! What was I about to do??
I walked into the parlor and the first person I saw, completely covered in tattoos and piercings. "This place is not for me" I thought. So I started to turn around and walk out and something just told me...do it Valerie. So, without more thought than me doodling the night before I walked back and gave the tattoo artist the picture I doodled!! He traced it on my foot and began to ink me up! And that's how I got the tattoo.
Now, my reason? That was my daily reminder to pray for my future, my spouse and my marriage. And at this point, I still did not know who, when or even if! But from that day on,I changed the way I thought about guys and the way I lived the rest of my college days. That hour of pain was the end of a life that very easily could have caused lots of emotional pain/hurt to my husband.
As life progressed I encountered many more butterflies and every single time I saidn an extra prayer that day. So butterflies have always been my thing! And soon after Nicholas and I started dating they became OUR thing!! He was the very first guy I dated that I told the meaning behind my tattoo (and I am so so very thankfull he was so forgiving and understanding from the start!)
So, at the beginning of all this, I said that this story reminds me daily of how God knows all!!! And this is how it all ties into that thought and our lives now. For about 3 weeks before our accident there were 2 butterflies that I think found their home nestled in the tree by our big front window of our house. Literally everyday I'd see these butterflies and just smile! Nicholas would be at work and so I'd say a prayer whenever I'd see them. Praying for a good day for him, his protection at work, whatever came to mind. And now looking back at it and realizing the symbolic meaning behind a butterfly I truly believe that God placed the "butterfly" in our lives to help us "heal" in our grieving of our beautiful Miranda and then with Briley. The butterfly has always helped us to pray for each other and our lives together. The tattoo on my foot was a new beginning to a great new future, that future that I have with Nicholas and our family. And then you'd be amazed at how many poems in memory of lost loved ones talk about the butterfly. At the Memorial Lighting in the neonatel unit at St V's Hospital the ornament on the Christmas tree honoring Miranda was a purple butterfly. For Christmas this year Nicholas' dad got us a gift in memory of Miranda, it was a rose with a butterfly sitting on it. I never knew the true symbolic meaning of a butterfly til now, but I do believe that God placed that one in my life many years ago on the deck at Little Eden to start preparing me for the day He would take my daughter home with Him. The prayers that I prayed for Nicholas before we were together for his path and to help build his faith, I believe to were to help us now. And knowing that and the butterfly has honestly helped us in the grieving process. It amazes us to think how one butterfly led to a simple prayer for our lives together, and then the tattoo of a butterfly led to prayers for us, for the things we will encounter and then the image of a butterfly now reminds us of our precious little girl and our dear Briley.
With all this we are reminded of God's plans being set in place long before we could ever imagine! And with each season I try to remember to pray and to be thankful that 5 years ago I chose to follow the path of a butterfly to the wonderful life I live today.....with my husband that is here to help me through all these trying times, times of tears, times of laughter, times of grief, and times of happiness. So as you can see, the butterfly will always be our thing! We will always smile and remember our children at the sight of the beautiful creature....and to this day, I do NOT regret my tattoo....matter of fact, each day it becomes more and more meaningful and more and more symbolic that we truly owe it all to our Father in Heaven, who has been watching over us as a family for years, long before Nicholas and I were together and long before Ashalyn, Miranda and Briley were created in my womb!
Each day I miss my beautiful children more and more, but I long for and look forward to the day we were reunited at the gates of Heaven!! I'm sure they are enjoying this spring in Jesus' arms and pray that each day as we get closer and closer to seeing them again that the symbol on my foot will continue to remind us of how great that day will be!
Now, with that story being shared, and the pictures from Nicholas and Ashalyn chose to take me to the Butterfly house for mother's day! It was perfect!! Hundreds of butterflies flying around; some landing on us, full of beauty and many colors, all reminding us of our love for each other. And reminding me the reason I have been blessed to be a mother. This life as a mother is not at all what I drempt...but I wouldn't change who my children are for anything. As tough as it is I will someday understand why I was a mother chosen to walk in these shoes....someday I'll get the answers that this earth and life cannot provide for me.