A Monarch…The Weight of my Wings…

Hello Butterflies! It has been a whirlwind week, and quite honestly, I am not sure why. It has been a week of me feeling like Spring has SPRUNG, yet there is still a Winter chill. Feeling like the world is out here, just mine for the taking, yet stagnancy is trying to keep me tied up and weighted down. Off and on and on and off. Feeling like I am flying with the lightest of butterfly wings… and yet, the wings feel heavy. And it’s funny how people will see things moving ahead for you, like the little engine that could, and yet, they don’t know that the more things move ahead, the heavier the weight of wanting to succeed, of having to succeed of needing to succeed seems to almost lay itself on your wings. And every Butterfly doesn’t make it, every Butterfly can’t fly with weight, because every Butterfly isn’t the same. And sometimes, this Butterfly wonders if will she able to carry the gift of her wings, wings that bare the weight of her gift.

As I was thinking about this, I decided to do some research about the culture of the Butterfly. And I learned four things about Butterflies that I need to keep in mind when fighting the “good fight of faith” in this life…

1-Scientists have proven that Monarch Butterflies are the strongest with a range that is worldwide.
Monarchs are the only Butterflies that perform an annual migration across North America which has been called “one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world.” Starting in September and October, eastern/northeastern populations migrate from southern Canada and the United States to overwintering sites in central Mexico where they arrive around November. They start the return trip in March, arriving around July. No individual butterfly completes the entire round trip; female monarchs lay eggs for the next generation during the northward migration and at least four generations are involved in the annual cycle. Something interesting to note is not all monarchs migrate BUT migrating populations and non-migrating populations coexist in many areas.

After learning all of that, I made up in my mind that I was indeed born to be a Monarch. But with being a Monarch came great responsibility. See it’s not just about being strong for myself, but I have to be strong enough to go the distance to make sure that the generation after me is birthed in a place that will nurture them and allow them to pick up the Mantle of the Monarchs and continue the journey, just like with actual Butterflies. And I had to understand that there are other Monarchs who, although they possess the same strength, and serve the same GOD as me, we may not have the same gifts. Their Kingdom assignment may not be to make the global trip nor carry the responsibility of birthing the next generation, but it is ok, because we all carry the Monarch name and therefore should be able to dwell together peacefully. 1st Corinthians 12 vs. 4-6 NIV reads, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”
I am a Monarch.

2-The gifts that I have been given will attract prey, but it is the gifts that I have been given that will be my way of escape.
Most butterflies are brightly colored, which would seem to counter their evasiveness by making them easier to spot and track. A report in the October 28 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences done by Biologist Thomas Eisner and Benjamin Jantzen states, “a butterfly’s ability to evade AND its blatant pigmentation may go hand in hand. Daytime butterflies are large and visible to birds. Since they are going to be spotted in any case, being showy about it isn’t a drawback, but is potentially a defensive maneuver—to advertise that they are difficult to catch. Butterflies, “have giant wings that are just so brightly colored,” says Jantzen, “and those are exactly what make it hard to get hold of them.”

I have been told that I have a bright and colorful personality. And at times, I have felt that, because of my colors, I became the prey, just like the Butterfly. I became an easy target to hunt and hang out to dry, BECAUSE my color was so noticeable. Times I felt like something was wrong with me because I couldn’t tone down who I was, my coat had too many colors. I noticed it was ok when people wanted to be entertained, but to continuously be colorful…that was just too much. I remember back in 2011, I was told by a Vice President that people’s perception of me, was reality. In other words, whatever someone thought about me, was true. And that shook me up, because there was a point when she told me that I was too social (even though I got the work done and helped some of her managers as well) and another time when she said I was basically not social enough, always in my office space (even though I got the work done and helped some of her managers as well.) So, what perception should I fight to change??? None…I decided to dilute my colors and shorten my wingspan. But then GOD reminded me how far I had come in him and how it was his power at work in me that people needed to see. He reminded me by way of Matthew 15 vs. 14-16 NIV. “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” And by totally and completely surrending myself over to GOD and his will for my life, and allowing my life to reflect HIM, no matter how many times my colors alerted the enemy that I was on the move, light cancels out darkness, so as long as I kept shining, no predator devil in hell would be able to get ahold of me!
 I am a Monarch.

3- I can still fly with clipped or broken wings, albeit a bit slower, but I will still get to my destination.
A Butterfly has 4 wings, two front wings and 2 hind-wings. The front wings in butterflies are the ones driven by the insect’s muscles; the hind wings are passively coupled to the front ones. A biologist, Thomas Eisner (the same Thomas Eisner I write about above under number 2,) decided to investigate just what the back wings were doing by trimming them away bit by bit and found that if he removed the entire hind wing, the insects could still fly the same trajectory path but they tend to fly a little slower.  He also realized that wing breakage is very common in natural circumstances.

When I read that the Butterfly could still make it to its destination with wings that were imperfect, wings that may be deformed, I took a hard look at my own wings and some of the traumas they have suffered at the hands of others and also at my own hands. I looked at my wings in their weakened state, feeling heavy under the weight of life, and it became even clearer to me that I had no excuse not to move forward in what it was that GOD was calling me to do. See, even when my wings weren’t perfect, and even when people wanted to see if I could really survive and fly by clipping away the thing they THOUGHT I needed, I still had to trust GOD in the ability to be able still move forward. I needed to make sure that I had the strength to power forward through my journey and SURVIVE. And the only way to do that was to keep my Hope in the LORD. Isaiah 40 vs. 29-31 NIV tells me, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
I fly with the strength of Monarchs.

4-I need to be aware of who I let touch my wings…if not, it could kill me.
Inside of a Butterflies wings are vessels of fluid. Because of these vessels, if the wings are touched, the butterfly will know because the pressure will transfer to their bodies where the wings are attached. On the outside of the wings are colored scales so small, they appear as powder. These colored scales regulate the heat in a Butterflies body, and any contact with another creature that rubs off these scales, can quite easily kill the Butterfly, since they are cold-blooded and need that thermostat function of the scales.

I remember training for my first half marathon (13.1 miles) and someone told me, “Oh you will never be able to do that.” And I have RAN two since that first one. I remember wanting to start a Facebook page for my Tales from A Butterfly blog and podcast, and I myself said, “No one will probably like it” and someone else said, “you’re probably right” and yet it is growing little by little. I have many more times like these when people (myself included, because sometimes we are our own silent killers) have almost mishandled my wings and could have contaminated my scales and caused death to kill my future and destiny. Proverbs 18 vs. 21 KJV reads, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” If I was to move forward into the life I was truly supposed to live, I could not allow the wrong words or actions of people to touch me. I couldn’t allow other people to be the thermostat I used to regulate the temperature of the call GOD placed on my life. And while I know there will be times when I will have to go through life situations that seem to weaken me and forcibly drag down my wings while I’m trying to dodge the predator that has come to kill, steal and destroy, I can take comfort that I WILL not fall into the enemy’s hands. 2 Thessalonians 3 vs. 3 NIV tells me, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

I want to encourage all of you, Butterflies to keep moving, keep flying and keep believing that the same GOD who created you and gifted you is the same GOD that will uphold you and protect you. And he won’t let ANYONE take your strength and dull your colors!
I love you guys…and thanks for Reading!

 

Well, Hello there Butterfly…letter to my FUTURE self…

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Wow! Can you believe that half of October is already passed and we have officially moved into a new season of life? This is the time of year when we realize that the year is, in fact, almost over and while some of us are giddy with anticipation of making New Year’s resolutions, others of us are filled with regret thinking about the New Year’s resolutions of our past that we did not keep. And we begin to beat ourselves up about the things we did not change, do, or accomplish…And for me, I start to think, “If I could just go back and change it. If I could just rewind time, and talk to that Taria, I would make sure I did everything I set out to do.” And there are moments when I have become so discouraged over a space in time that is no longer available for me to occupy, that I ignored the beauty in the time that I have right now and the time I hopefully have ahead of me. And during those moments, I would start to think about all the things I messed up in my past, all the ways I let others influence certain decisions and all the opportunities that I didn’t fight for and just procrastinated away. I felt like I had to do something to clear the cobwebs of past “failures” out of my head so that I could feel like I had a clean slate, and THEN I would be able to reach all my goals and fulfill my God-given purpose. So, I decided the way to do this was to write a letter to my past self. To tell her it is ok if she falls and stumbles. That she will get back up. That the hurt she experiences, whether by someone else, or by her own hand, she WILL make it.

So, here we go…

Dear 13- year- old Taria,… Wait! Wait! Wait! What am I doing? At 13 I might not be ready for the advice I am about to give. So, let’s try……16. Ok. Dear 16- year- old Taria,… Wait a minute! I don’t know if 16- year- old Taria was ready either. Then it dawned on me. I am attempting to write a letter to a past self that no longer exists, while in a present state of mind, to inspire a future that I longed for and yet wasn’t sure about how to achieve, because I kept reflecting on my past. And I just couldn’t think of anything to say to her, to that Taria, my past self. There is nothing I can say that would change the different situations that she experienced, both happy and not happy, both fulfilling and unfulfilling, both hurtful and life changing. No warning I could give her to just hold on and keep going…to not give up because hope and faith lie beneath the surface of her heart, etched into her DNA. And while I know writing a letter to my past self could be therapeutic, I also understood that I needed to embrace the new seasons in my life without trying to wear last season’s clothes. To not birth my past failures and disappointments in my present and allow it to miscarry my future. To not use my past as an excuse for current behaviors that would forfeit my future. And the scripture came to mind: “…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” Philippians 3 vs. 13 NIV and in that moment, I made up my mind to use my past as a step stool and prophesy to my future.

Dear Future Taria,
You did it! You made it to 40! Remember when 40 seemed so far away? And now you are here! Healthy, happy and whole! And I am so proud of you and what you have accomplished! I am proud of the way you decided to pursue every dream that GOD showed you and to drive every gift that GOD gave you with faith being your only method of transportation. I am proud of you for understanding that in this life, it is not always about you. That your gifts, your faith and your obedience to GOD are not always for you and you alone. That sometimes, GOD will use your gifts to encourage someone else, your faith to inspire someone else and your obedience to bless someone else. And to not immediately ask what you are getting out of it, but to remember that it is about building up GODs’ kingdom by edifying the body.

And how about that Podcast and your blog, Tales of a Butterfly?!?! You DID it! You jumped, feet first into a pool of dreams, wading through a little self- doubt, a little fear and a little uncertainty…unsure of whether you could do it… but with GOD as your life vest, you made it through to the other side! And I am depending on you to keep going, to keep pressing toward the mark of the “higher calling”, because there are people you don’t even know who are depending on you. And the people that you envisioned that would say yes to being a guest on the podcast, you interviewed THEM ALL! I would tell you who they are, but you will find out soon enough, in our future:)

I am so proud of you for becoming the person, the woman who you were looking for. For becoming the person, you needed in your life, knowing that one day, someone will need a you…and you will be ready. For understanding that the words you spoke would either be the breath of life that sustained you to the future you, or cause you to choke and your dreams to die by asphyxiation, never moving beyond the past you.

I am proud of the woman you have become. A woman who knows her worth is far above rubies and doesn’t allow anyone or anything to make her feel less then. A woman who chooses to recognize her strength as a mother, while knowing GOD’s power is made perfect in her weakness. I am proud of you Taria, for recognizing what you bring to the table of friendship, although not perfect, you sit in love and at the same time you are willing to lay your fork down, turn your plate down and walk away in grace, when what is being served has been contaminated, whether by another table guest, or yourself. I am proud of you for no longer defending yourself or apologizing for the type of friend you are. For understanding that although you may have experienced hurt at the hand of a friend, you have probably caused that same hurt in someone else and have chosen to forgive yourself and to continue to strive to be a better person, not for people, but for GOD and for yourself.

I am proud of you for acknowledging that while the sum total of your PAST experiences adds up to the person you used to be, on this forward moving journey of your life, you understand the price of taking extra bags would cost your future too much. So, you decided to exercise your right to hand over all over your past baggage to a GOD whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. And although you appreciate and recognize the important life lessons that you learned from a past Taria, you made the decision that she could no longer dictate your future…to you. So, I celebrate this Taria today, and the way you have chosen to submit your heart fully and completely to GOD, choosing to follow him at all costs and allowing HIM to define who you are.

I bid adieu to the caterpillar of the past who had to fight to survive the process of metamorphosis and I say hello to the beautiful butterfly that has come forth as strong, powerful, bold and free…Well, Hello there Taria Shondell and welcome to your future…
Love, Taria…

I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with a past that seems to want to keep a hold on you. A past that may seem insurmountable. A past that seems to have a foot hold on your present with the intent of strangling your future. You CAN make it. You CAN be a success. Every plan that GOD has for your life will come to fruition. Every promise he made to you, will come to pass. All you have to do is lay your burdens/baggage down, and he will pick it up. Submit yourself completely and fully to HIS will. Start speaking his word into your life, start speaking to the future self you want to be…Write a letter to your future self, declaring what you WILL be! Habakkuk 2 vs. 2 KJV says, “And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” And I promise you, you will not fail…because in him there is no failure.

I love you guys and thank you for reading!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29 vs. 11 NIV

 

 

 

“Are you there GOD? It’s me, Taria”…

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Are you there GOD? It’s me, Mary Margaret…I used to love this book by Judy Blume when I was in middle school and must have read it about 4 times. In the book, Mary Margaret has a Christian Mother and a Jewish father and is confused as to her belief in GOD and if she actually believes in GOD. She goes to school and is given a yearlong independent study project and she chooses to study peoples’ beliefs. So every time she had a question for GOD about things she didn’t understand and needed him to explain, she would start out by saying, “Are you there GOD? It’s me, Mary Margaret.” This book came back to my remembrance while on the phone with a friend and I was losing phone service and I jokingly said, “Are you there GOD? It’s me, Taria.” My friend and I started to laugh and I asked her if she remembered the book. After we hung up, I really started thinking about the book and how Mary Margaret went to a GOD she didn’t even know for sure existed, for the answers that she so desperately needed. And then I thought, surely if he could use a donkey in the bible, he could use a fictional middle school character named Mary Margaret…So I took my cue and said out loud, “Are you there GOD? It’s me, Taria, and I need you.”

It’s not that I question if there is a GOD or my belief in GOD, however sometimes, in those midnight hours, just before the night sky allows the sun to peak through with the light of hope for another day, I ask questions…Questions that if GOD can’t answer, I know I won’t get one. I want to know why at 39 years, 1 month and 23 days old, I feel like I am stuck. I am 312 days’ shy of my 40th birthday and I feel like I am stuck. Am I STILL in a caterpillar cocoon that is seemingly steeped in ashes, fighting through a transformation to finally possess the beauty of the butterfly? I ask him if the poor choices and decisions I made earlier in life became the matches that lit my hopes, my dreams and my passions on fire causing them to burnout and sometimes leave me feeling like all that is left of me is that powdery residue that remains after something is destroyed…ashes. But then I remembered you answered the question before I asked. You said in your word that you would give me “beauty for ashes.”

I ask him if I should be further ahead in life because even though I was born in the Eastern Standard Time zone, I feel like life has kept me in the Pacific Standard Time zone, 3 hours behind what I am supposed to be doing, continuously running on a treadmill of time that is shaky and not always sturdy, constantly trying to catch my purpose that seems to move ahead of me, but really, I’m just running in place, making no solid strides or steps forward. Is THIS where you want me to be GOD??? But then I remembered you answered the question before I asked. You said in your word that, “The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.”

I started asking him if I had wasted all the years I have had prior to this year when I had a burning passion to use my voice to inspire greatness in others through encouragement. When I wanted you to use my voice to become a pen to my generation, an instrument that used what you put me in to help write the vision and make it plain so that when we read it, we could run with it. I wanted you to use my voice to help break the chains of hopelessness, helplessness and despair off of my fellow brothers and sisters. And yet some days I fear I have run out of ink and that the well has run dry. I wanted the sound waves of fearlessness to carry your message of hope through me and now sometimes I fear if I release this unique sound that you gave me, people will come for my neck and I will be beheaded. So should I stay silent? And YET at the same time I still feel the embers of that passion, but I question what is it about my NOW that will help anyone? How will it be different from years prior. And then I remembered, you sent the answer through Queen Esther’s story before I ever asked it.“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will not come… And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as THIS.”

*(Queen Esther went against the law and approached the king without being summoned which she should have been killed for, and used her voice to make sure her people were not killed. And not only did the King not kill her, he promised he would grant her request. Her belief and bravery helped save a generation from death.)

I want to encourage anyone reading this who feels like your time has come and gone for you to fully operate in the gifts and talents that GOD has given you, anyone who feels stuck in life whether it be your job or finances and fears where you are is where you will remain, anyone who feels like what GOD is leading you to do is completely out of the norm of those around you, go to your quiet space and don’t be afraid to pour your questions out to GOD. And even when you can’t verbalize in words what you are feeling and all you can do is cry out, remember that, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.” And I promise you, he will encourage you and turn your questions of doubt into answered manifestation!

I love you guys and thanks for reading!

Habakkuk 1 vs. 2 & 5

Habakkuk- “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen…”

GOD- “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”