A few days ago as I was walking out to my car for work, and I walked around to the passenger side to put some things in the front seat. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something brown and green on my bus tire. When I took a closer look, I discovered that it was a cicada that was molting out of its shell. Now, in my neck of the woods, it is not uncommon to see the cicada shells stuck to just about anything, however to actually catch one in the process of molting, well that is just a rare occasion for me.
My Marlee Jayne is fascinated with science, flowers, bugs, snakes and nature and she loves collecting the cicada shells and leaving them all over my house for me to find! I knew capturing this process on film would tickle her fancy so I took a few moments to sit down with my handy dandy phone camera and begin filming. Wow! What an incredible process I was observing. Before I get into describing it, let me share a few facts that I’ve since learned about Cicadas.
Cicadas begin their life in the egg stage, laid in a groove of a tree limb. When its ready, it will crawl from the groove, bury itself in the ground and dig until it finds roots to feed on. Nearly all of them spend years of their lives underground as juveniles, from 2 to 17 years. They will emerge as nymphs and find a vertical surface and begin to shed their nymph exoskeleton. When they are free of the old skin, their wings can begin to inflate with fluid and their skin will harden. Then they are ready to begin their adult life and serve their purpose of reproduction. Cicadas are mostly known for the song they sing on warm summer evenings.
Now back to my story. The adult cicada was half way in and half way out of the shell. If you looked close enough you could see It gently trembling as it was making its way out of the skin that had enclosed it during its juvenile days. Its shiny green skin was such a contrast to the old brown casing it was coming out of. The detail in its new body was intricate, delicate and beautiful. The thing that amazed me the most was the size of the adult body emerging versus the old shell it was coming out of. I said out loud, “Lord, how did that big ole cicada fit into that little shell? Even if it wanted to, It could not have remained encased or fit back into that shell!” And that is when I heard that still, small, familiar, comforting voice say to me, “its not meant to fit back into its old shell, and neither are you.” So, what began as a science lesson on a warm summer morning ended in a life lesson that penetrated to the core of my soul.
Life is a beautiful gift; however, it can be troublesome at times. At some point we will all face challenges, circumstances and situations that, after we come through them, we are different. I have experienced great loss, heart aches, disappointments, job changes, relationship changes, lost friends, family challenges – goodness, at times I felt as if it was just one unfortunate event after another. With every event came new growth, stronger faith and wisdom gained. However, the greatest challenge I have faced so far in life is my battle with breast cancer. It wasn’t something going on around me, or something happening to someone I love (although I do love myself!), it hit me personally. I am a nurturer at heart and when someone I love struggles, I wrap my arms around them, comfort them and assure them that everything will be okay. When someone has a need, I go boldly to the throne room of grace to petition the God who provides all things on their behalf. I step up, show up and do whatever is necessary to see someone I love make it through their situation.
This time it was me that needed held, comforted and assured. It was me that needed prayer warriors to petition heaven on my behalf. It was me that needed friends to step up and show up. It was my body that was being attacked by a disease, and in turn saturated with chemicals in the name of healing. It was my hair, my eyelashes, my eyebrows that fell out, leaving a cancer patient to greet me each morning in the mirror. It was me that was struggling on the trail, being the last one to make it to the top. It was me that laid in the bed, too weak to do my normal routine. It was me that had my body altered and my femininity modified. It was me that would never be the same again. It was all me.
I shared my journey on my social media pages and my blog for many reasons. One reason, or course, was to have the comfort, encouragement and support that is necessary to make it through such a battle, we cannot face something like that alone! Another reason was to have a reference to look back and reflect on when my focus wasn’t just survival. I love the Facebook memories that remind me of all the struggles I overcame, however sometimes when the memory is something ‘BC – before cancer” I wallow in my vanity and lament a little. Goodness at the difference in my physical body! Two years later I am slowly gaining back my muscle tone but the strength just isn’t there yet. I remember a body that was fit as a fiddle, that didn’t ache when I rolled over or spasm when I stretch, and oh! one that didn’t struggle with hormonal weight gain! I grieve a mind that didn’t fear a reoccurrence every time there was a weird feeling or pain; the anxiety can be overwhelming at times, or a heart that didn’t pound a little faster with each check-up. The physical limitations that once weren’t there can be downright disheartening and piss you off all in the same moment.
Sometimes, for various reasons, I want the old me back! However, on a warm summer morning while staring at a bug on my bus tire, I am gently reminded that, like the cicada, I am designed to embrace change. I lived along time in my juvenile stage of “before cancer” and regardless of how good things may have been, enduring my battle has transformed me, strengthened me and better prepared me to fulfill the purpose I am created for. I had to dig deep in the dirt and find the roots that would sustain me until the appointed time had come for me to emerge from the darkness. The new me, although full of battle scars, is intricate, delicate and beautiful and will never fit back into the old mold, and I should not long to. Just like that cicada, I have a song to sing – a song of hope when things seem hopeless, of perseverance when I may be weary, of a faith that doesn’t fail, of new mercies that come every morning, of a grace that is sufficient and strength that will get me through. I, like the cicada, may have trembled through the transformation, but I am confident that today, as I sit here on this side of the battle, I am much better now than I ever have been and for that I am truly thankful.