Seems everyone enjoys a beautiful butterfly. I used to love monarchs because I loved how beautiful they wereNow I love monarchs because I know why they are so beautiful.   Their life cycle is a very small replica of my spiritual growth... it truly is an amazing metaphor.   Most people call the scientific process a metamorphosis.  Other
 people call the spiritual growth process a transformation.  
 I've come to see it as a Trust-formation.  I will be learning to trust God for the rest of my life. I don't have complete trust in Him now and I know it.  I question and I have doubts. I am a mixed bag of belief and unbelief.  I remind myself of the guy who said to Jesus... "I do believe, help my unbelief."  My head and heart fight for control over this constantly. Obviously, I am not in control of life's changes, but I want to grow in how I respond to change.  I want to respond to change with trust not inconsistent temperament.  I am still learning to trust my Creator in this process.  

I raise monarchs in my own home and these are some of the photographs I've taken of them.  
Here's what I learned as I watched and photographed the Monarch transformation  and why it has so much to teach me about learning to Trust God... completely no matter what.  When life hurts …  or,  in circumstances  I cannot understand,  or when I cannot see where I am going... and especially when I am not in control ...  when life's struggles are too much to bear... and when I doubt my own faith.  The monarchs teach me to press on, to hold on, and stick to the basics that I am sure of.  I ask myself ... 'what do I know about God?'  'How has he proven himself to me in the past?' and 'Why do I continue to ask him to prove himself in every new struggle I face?'... when it is me who must prove myself worthy of his calling.  Through every new challenge and change...

This is my  trust-formation...  

Christ in me, the hope of Glory.  Colossians 1:27

It doesn't say "Christ in me, the 'guarantee' of glory."  It says 'the hope' of glory.  I think 'hoping' implies more than my anticipation or worse, wishing... I believe it requires my participation.
He who began a good work in you
will be faithful to complete it until the day Christ Jesus returns.
Phillipians 1:6

            My  faith began as a small seed...
and it will grow daily... if I feed it properly.

Likewise, monarchs start as a small seed.
Monarch caterpillars faithfully eat milkweed leaves every day.

Did you notice that word... "milk?"...
Like new born babes long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.  1 Peter 2:2

I am  responsible for taking in the right kind of  soul food  in order to grow in my mutual relationship with God.  I could spend my whole life trying to eat healthy and never feed my spirit with the right food.  By feeding on God's word, I am sustained by His wisdom, strength, and encouragement.

As it grows, the monarch caterpillar sheds its skin many times during the course of its caterpillar season.  I grow through many seasons as well.

 As my spirit grows on the inside, His Spirit compels me to shed my outer layers, or false identities, destructive behaviors, relationships, or thinking patterns.   In the final process of shedding their skin,  monarchs literally use one of their front legs to take off their old face mask of dead skin.  They still look like a caterpillar on the outside, but they have grown on the inside... getting ready to become all that God has created them to be.  If I acknowledge Christ as LORD within the very core of my being, I will grow in my relationship with him.  Each time I go through a growing process, I learn to trust his process within my life experience a little more.  I learn that he is the giver of all good gifts; he brings good things out of difficult circumstances; he is present in the darkest night; and he understands suffering and abandonment.   I begin to live confidently in Him within my own skin which includes ALL of my life experiences... past, present and future.  By acknowledging my true identity as a child of God ... I begin to trust Him as my loving Father...  trusting and believing He is always with me in this life and that I will receive all of His promises  and one day enter the Kingdom of God.   
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understandings.
In all your ways, acknowledge Him
and He will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5,6

In the photo below, you can see the caterpillar's face mask actually falling off!  (it looks like a small catcher's mask.)  This caterpillar had just crawled out of its old skin (which is bunched up at the top of this photo) and the face mask is falling at the bottom of the photo.  I simply do not have the words to describe how I felt when I captured this photograph.  It was an overwhelming moment for me to see this, as I knew God was speaking to me very clearly... through a bug of all things.  To take off the mask of self-sufficiency, false humility, and even a false faith... and to step freely into trusting Him for the details of my life.

What face masks do I need to take off? 
What is keeping me in my old skin? 
What would it look like if I were to trust God?

And we all, who with unveiled faces,  contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Cor 3: 17-18

Even after they go through the shedding process, these caterpillars continue to go through a series of difficult stages.  I don't think they understand what's coming, or what they must endure, or even what they will become... just like us.  Before they  transform into a chrysallis, they hang upside down for a few days in the shape of a "J".  I know there are times when I have felt abandoned, as though I have been left hanging in impossible circumstances without understanding why. 

I believe that even when I am in painful, difficult, dark circumstances and cannot see the outcome, I can still trust Him.  If I am in the middle of the dryest desert and cannot hear Him, see Him... or even find Him... He is still there.

Even though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me.
Psalm 23:4

It is only through the painful, difficult, dark times that I learn  He is with me and for me ... carrying me, teaching me.  I learn to trust Him...that He is trustworthy... even when I fail to trust and choose doubt instead of faith; independence instead of dependence.  And  yet each time I fall into those hard, desert places, I ask Him 'why?' and request proof, again, that He is trustworthy. 
The proof is on the cross.

If I say I have trusted Him to save my soul... can I also say I trust Him for the dailiness of my life...whether it is calm or in crisis?  And yet, like these caterpillars, I can trust Him completely for the seasons of my life ... and thus... my transformation becomes a 

Over the course of my entire life, it will continue, until by this same faith, I will enter heaven. 
I will be learning to trust God for the rest of my life.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.                      
                                                2 Corinthians 4:8,9, 16-18
c. Pat Spreng

Emerald green
adorned by God
with golden constellations

nestled within
this hope
of  glory
sets me free

The beautiful jade green chrysalis hangs for almost a week and then becomes gradually darker until it turns black.  I like being jade green with golden jewelry.  I do not want to turn black and feel as though I am near death.  As the chrysalis appears to die, I can't help but liken it to the "dark night of the soul" that St. John of the Cross writes.  But new life only comes from death.  At its darkest hour, the dawn brings the emergence of the monarch butterfly hatching from its casing. Jade green is beautiful, but God has something better in store.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,  she is a new being;
the old has gone, the new has come! 

2 Corinthians 5:17

The King's daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is interwoven with gold.  She will be led to the King in embroidered work... with gladness and rejoicing
She will enter into the King's palace

Psalm 45: 13-15


  1. This is beautiful, Pat.
    How kind of God to give us things like the monarch which help us understand His work in our lives.

  2. All I could do in response to the beauty of your creation is weep. Weep because your photos, your words resonate through my soul. What a gift you have given to all of us!

  3. This is amazing! Thank you for sharing. :)

  4. WOW!! This is truly amazing!! Your photos are so crystal clear, it as if I am seeing the birth of the butterfly with my own naked eye. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your blog. xo

  5. These are amazing photos. I watch the Monarchs in my yard year after year, and encourage the milkweed to grow for them. They come to visit the sweetly scented butterfly bush, and bask in the sun, but I've never been lucky enough to find an egg on the milkweed, and the caterpillars always break out of their pupae when I'm not there. Your photos have filled in the parts that I've missed seeing. Thanks!

  6. Excellent photography, Pat - both aesthetically and technically. Equally impressive is your understanding and appreciation of natural history. It's good to know you're a nature lover and photographer. Next time I see you (weddings and funerals - hopefully a wedding) we'll talk cameras. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Wow, that was awesome! You're right -- I did love this. I love it!

  8. Hey Patricia Spreng, Monarch lover from Michigan! I just got my info packet for the Laity Lodge Writer's Retreat and found out we are going to be roommates! Now I need to see if I can dig out the book my son made illustrating the life cycle of a monarch butterfly so I can bring it and show it to you. Can't wait to meet!

    Oh, and I think you'll like this post about my boy and his butterfly:


  9. You should teach this! Make a Powerpoint of your beautiful photos and go speak it.


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