Tuesday, August 23, 2011

For Maria...

This story has been rolling around in my head for a couple of years since Maria found a lady bug and had to let her go. God brought this incident to mind when Maria asked me if the reason her birthmom didn't keep her was because she wasn't good enough. It seemed to help Maria understand a little better.

“What a wonderful surprise,” Maria delighted to herself. She could hardly contain her excitement as she leaned down to get a closer look at the tiny creature that had gingerly landed on her sleeve. The insect’s shiny wings, tucked closely to its body, formed a near perfect circle. It looked as if a single red polka dot had been meticulously painted to complement the bright pink of Maria’s favorite sweatshirt. Undoubtedly, this was the most beautiful ladybug that Maria had ever seen.

Maria gently nudged the ladybug with the tip of her polish-chipped fingernail. Quietly she cooed soothing words to the ladybug, encouraging her to begin a slow and timid ascent onto Maria’s hand. Thoughtfully, Maria brought the ladybug level with her own sparkling, dark eyes. Maria’s love for the ladybug was at once instantaneous and boundless. She vowed to herself and to her ladybug that she would do everything possible to keep her safe and happy. Maria was overwhelmed that the blessing of caring for one of God’s exquisite creations had been unexpectedly granted to her.

“First,” Maria thought to herself, “I need to make her a comfortable place to live.” With the ladybug tucked snuggly in the palm of her loosely closed hand, Maria worked quickly to fashion a home for her ladybug. She decided that a discarded purple and green striped, paper cup would make an ideal home. With great care, Maria painstakingly filled the recycled cup with an array of grass, leaves, and one smooth stick. “Perfect!” Maria exclaimed.

Satisfied with the ladybugs new home, Maria placed the tiny bug delicately inside of the paper cup. As one final precaution, Maria placed a thin piece of plastic wrap, pierced with tiny air holes, over the cup to make sure that precious contents would not escape from the safe confines of the newly crafted home. Maria hoped with all of her heart that her ladybug would be happy and content with her accommodations.

Maria watched with anticipation as her ladybug moved deftly about the leaves and blades of grass, exploring her new surroundings. The ladybug made quick work of climbing the stick to the very top of the paper cup. “She wants to get a better look at me!” Maria thought to herself. Grinning from ear to ear with a deep sense of accomplishment, Maria carried the ladybug in the cup to her own bedroom for extra safe keeping.

Next, Maria realized that she would need to find food for her ladybug. But what did a ladybug eat? She surely didn’t know. Maria decided to ask her Momma. After all, mommas know everything. “Momma” she inquired, “what does a ladybug eat?” Just as Maria had expected, Momma did know the answer. Her response, however, left Maria startled and feeling a little queasy inside. Aphids. They eat other bugs! How was a little girl such as herself going to find aphids to feed to her ladybug? The thought concerned her at first, but she quickly dismissed her worry, convinced that she could figure out how to give her ladybug what she needed.

From that very first meeting, Maria and her ladybug were inseparable. Maria carried her ladybug wherever she went, proudly showing her off to anyone who would stop to look. Maria delighted at each “oh” and “ah” as friends and family congratulated her on having a ladybug of her very own. The joy Maria felt inside was like none she had ever experienced before. She thought her heart might just burst with pride.

Maria did her best to fulfill her vow of taking care of her ladybug. Daily she provided her ladybug with a fresh supply of carefully chosen, green leaves and newly clipped grass. Maria desperately hoped that each new crop of vegetation might provide the aphids that her ladybug could eat. When none appeared, Maria thought that perhaps her ladybug might enjoy eating some of her own culinary favorites. From mangos and fried chicken, to strawberries and Momma’s spicy enchiladas, Maria persevered in offering her ladybug the very best she had. But nothing Maria could provide was what her ladybug needed.

Despite her concerns over what to feed her ladybug, Maria delighted in the joy of spending time with her. She never grew tired of watching her ladybug through the plastic wrap ceiling of the paper cup. For the first few days, Maria would often find her ladybug perched on the twig, waiting expectantly near the cup’s tattered rim.

Maria couldn’t, however, quiet the small voice inside of her, whispering unwanted doubts. Would she really be able to provide all that a ladybug needed? Adding to her doubts was the realization that with each day that she kept her ladybug in the paper cup, the less and less the tiny creature moved about. Her ladybug no longer seemed to have enough energy to climb the stick to its tippy-top.

Confused and concerned about what to do for her ladybug, Maria once again sought advice from Momma. “Loving something with all your heart doesn’t always mean that you are able to take care of it.” Momma counseled. The words were hard to hear and stung with a truth that Maria did not want to accept.

Although Maria loved her ladybug with all of her heart and had given her best to care for her, perhaps that just wasn’t enough. Maybe the only way to ensure that her ladybug would survive and flourish, was for Maria to let her go. Tears began forming shallow pools in Maria’s eyes which quickly over flowed, rolling down her mocha colored cheeks. She knew what she had to do. The small voice inside of her confirming the difficult choice she was about to make.

Energized by a selfless resolve, Maria carried her ladybug outside. Determined not to give in to her sadness, Maria stripped away the plastic wrap from the top of the paper cup. Reminiscent of the day when they first found each other, Maria placed her finger in front of her ladybug, nudging her to climb on. Maria surprised herself by giggling when her ladybug’s six tiny legs tickled her finger. Quickly, as not to change her mind, Maria blew a parting kiss to her ladybug.
As if lifted by the breath from Maria’s final kiss, her ladybug opened its crimson wings and took flight for the first time. Maria watched through tears of grief as the ladybug flew farther away from her, but towards a future destined by God. As her ladybug vanished into the distance, Maria offered one final encouragement to her beloved. Her parting words came from a heart forever changed by loving completely and sacrificing much.

“Fly away home,” she whispered. Then slowly turned and walked away.