About Me

Van Walton

Fun Facts about Van Walton

My favorite smell: The way the earth smells after it rains.

My favorite sound: The first notes of a grand symphony.

My favorite way to relax: Sitting anywhere outside - on my front porch, on my deck, or by the lake, early in the morning with my first cup of coffee.

My favorite birthday dessert: a Peach cobbler baked by my husband. He’s my fave chef!

I will not eat: Avocado. They turn my stomach into a volcano that never erupts.

Technology I couldn't live without and why: My laptop - it takes me anywhere I want to go.

One thing that makes me smile: My sons' faces!

FacebookFriend Van on Facebook

My Resources



My book, From the Pound to the Palace, is available for $10
from Proverbs 31 Ministries.


Pound to Palace


My book, Little Halos, is available for $5.99 from Proverbs
31 Ministries.


Little Halos


Proverbs 31 Ministries












Links




Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

There was an error in this gadget

Search

Loading...
Friday, February 29, 2008

MY FATHER KNITS

Have you ever wondered what it means to be made in God’s image? My Father likes to knit. He knits babies together in their mother’s wombs. I am like my Father. I like to knit things together also. I like to crochet.
I am celebrating because I just finished a project! Finishing projects is not my forte. I start with a bang. I am enthusiastic and excited. First I get a vision of what I want to make or do. I plan a lot in my head. I dream of the outcome until I can no longer stand it. Then I gather my tools around me. My tools have consisted of everything from paint brushes and sewing machines to gardening tools and crochet hooks. Some of my favorite projects have been scrapbooks made for my sons, a shawl crocheted for my grandmother who helped me perfect needle work, and throw pillows for my mother’s living room.

Years ago I gave up crafts because they had an unhealthy hold on me. They consumed my time, keeping me from quality time with my sons and important household chores. My hobbies slowly took over my life and took control of my identity. If I wasn’t crafting I was talking about my latest project. I would find out about a new fad, get excited about it, and put whatever I was doing at the present time aside. The works of my hands had insidiously become my idols!

After one of our many moves my husband opened a box and uncovered my sickness, a disease that never allowed me to finish. There in that box he found too many unfinished projects. As he pulled each partially finished item from the box, he held it up and asked about it. Before you knew it we were rolling on the floor. You cannot imagine the fads of the 70’s and 80’s. I had created a time capsule without knowing it. Although the time capsule provided deep belly laughter, I realized how sick I had become. I pretty much quit cold turkey because I was so disgusted with myself.

But when I learned that my former pastor’s daughter had a baby on the way, I decided to pull out the crochet hook. I have to admit that I had another incentive. I won a lovely scarf from a fellow blogger, Kelly (http://www.blogger.com/profile/05575872158431227773)
and every time I wear it I feel such warmth toward the hands that so lovingly knit it for me. I decided to do the same for a young mom and her baby.

It had been a LONG time since I had crocheted and I enjoyed the serenity of watching the blanket come together. I curled up in the soft colors and row by row delighted in my work.

I thought about the mother who would wrap her baby in this soft blanket. I wondered about the infant girl who would cuddle and feel loved as she snuggled deep into soft pinks, yellows, and greens. I knew the plans I had for this project. I prayed for the wee one whose sense of well being and confidence would develop a bit more each time loving hands wrapped her, promising to protect her all the days of her young life.

One day as I sat in the sunshine, listening to music, and watching the baby blanket take shape, Psalm 139:13 gently floated into my thoughts. “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

I started a conversation with God. “Did You have a plan and a vision for me when You chose the “yarn” and “threads” that You used to knit me together? Did You have a plan for my life when You decided how wide and long to make me? How did You choose the “colors” You used to make me?” (I went to Michaels. Is there a warehouse in heaven? Smiles.)

Of course I know the answers. God had a plan for me when He first had a vision of me, when He first dreamed of creating me.

Have you ever wondered what God’s plan was for you?

Unfortunately I leaned too late in life about God’s plan for me. Too many years of not knowing myself flowed into my inner being. Try as I might I could not become the person I was meant to be. So, I lived in frustration trying to be someone I could never be. Teachers had tried to shut me up. My dear mother had tried to organize me. My husband had tried to perfect me, all to no avail. All I needed was to submit to a God who had already fashioned me.

Then, one day at a most desperate time in my life, actually within the course of a few years, God allowed circumstances to take place. He put me through a course in anatomy –spiritual and emotional anatomy, a class where I learned that I had a unique personality style, spiritual gifts, and a special love language. All these combined gave me a glimpse of God’s plan for my life.

So now years later I am comfortable with the fact that my love language is the gift of time. I don’t struggle with the fact I spend many hours sitting with a hook and yarn in my lap. My spiritual gift is teaching, so I am confident when I slip in a little lesson here and there. I slipped a book into the blanket when I wrapped it up and prepared it for mailing. (Tish Berg’s http://www.trishberg.com/ RATTLED.) I now know that I am a sanguine - colorful and showy like that blanket I just finished.

And you know what? I continue to learn more about myself. God’s sweet gentle lessons have taught me to be quiet (well some of the time) when I so much would rather speak up and be the center of attention. He has put people in my life who have given me the desire to get organized (because it keeps me on task and saves me time.) And perfection? I will never be perfect – it is just not my goal, but I want to do all things in excellence, so to please God, and my husband, I remember that I want all the works of my head, hands, and heart to glorify Him.

How about you? Have you asked God to show you His plans for your life? Maybe you would have a greater understanding if you knew the components God chose when He knit you together long before anyone even knew you existed.

If you want to learn more about yourself, I recommend these books:
PERSONALITY PLUS
http://shopp31.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=86
THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES
http://shopp31.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=57
Saturday, February 23, 2008

THE EYES HAVE IT



Yesterday my DH and I drove to visit our son in college. We had not seen him for 6 weeks and I needed a hug. A mother on a mission I needed to check out his eyes.

He hasn’t been complaining of blurry vision nor do we think he needs glasses. It’s just that every once in a while a mother has to peer into her child’s eyes.

There is a message in every set of eyes, a message waiting to be read, if you take the time.

When I was a child growing up in the developing country of Colombia in South America, the eyes of the poor children kept me awake many nights, haunting me. Their eyes weren’t scary. They were sad and serious, too serious for children, as they searched for food, money, and protection. I couldn’t imagine how they survived without mothers and daddies who worked, providing shelter and food.

I worked as a recreation director soon after college graduation. I wish I could say that the children I played with each afternoon were healthy and happy little ones whose parents loved them. No, I worked in a children’s shelter, a home for abused and neglected children. Most of the eyes that stared at me had a veil in front of them, a curtain drawn so I couldn’t see the terror of their lives. Those who did let me see their eyes only peered back vacantly. It seemed no one lived inside those little bodies.

Then I walked into a classroom of my own where I interacted with 120 (more or less) pairs of eyes every day. Some danced with clarity and intelligence filled with eagerness to learn and discover life. There were also the young people who hid behind their hair, who stared through unkempt strands of curls and locks, those who could never make eye contact with me, and the ones who stayed behind, shut off in a world of their own, but sent their bodies to class. They chose seats in the back of the room and slept if possible or sat motionless with blank looks that broke my heart.
Every once in a while a pair of dancing eyes lost clarity. Redness, exhaustion, and restlessness ruled where tranquility once reigned. Belligerence would take the place of curiosity and defiance began to win over innocence and charm.

I’m not sure which saddened me more - a child who came to me already beaten and lost or one who slipped away right under my watch.
And then one day – miracles of miracles, children of my own settled into my house.

“Please don’t slip away,” I would pray.

Every day I looked into their eyes. I smiled into the eyes. I studied the eyes. When I noticed sad eyes, I pulled the head that protected them and the heart that held their secrets close to me.

“I’ll never let you slip away,” I would say.

As they grew and worldly influence threatened to steal their innocence I looked deeper to read the messages in their eyes.

“Do I see pain? Is there some strain? Wanna’ talk about it? Not good to run from it. Is that fear? Do I see a tear?”

Open honest communication – my daddy used to say, “I need to have a man to man talk with you.” (I know, I’m no man. He must have known it’s a man’s world and no daughter of his would be ruled by men!”) He had his ritual, sitting in his great big chair, he would sit me down on the stool in front of him and taking my hands in his, say, “Eye to eye, now.” This was serious talk. He knew and I knew. I needed to be brought back from the edge, back from the brink where I was straying. As long as I had to face Daddy, I had to walk the straight and narrow.

I used the same tactics with my students and with my sons.

The first night each one of my sons stayed out late I sat up waiting for them to come home. When they walked through the door I invited them to have ice cream with me. The entire time we sat at the table eating and chatting, I peered into the eyes looking for messages. It became a routine. Either their dad or I was awake when they walked through the door at night.

“Come over here and sit with me. Tell me about tonight.”

I was looking, and listening, for shenanigans - possibly hidden in the eyes.

So… I just had to make a trip to see if there were any secret messages I wasn’t getting. Sometimes kids don’t know how to say what is on their hearts. They need help describing their concerns and a little urging to pour out their doubts. I need assurance that anxiety is under control, that stress is being channeled.

The eyes have it. They have a lot to say without speaking, not one little word.

So what messages did I find? Healthy and rested body. Intelligent and curious mind. Content and positive attitude. Best of all – eyes that said, “I love you mom. I’m glad you came.”









Thursday, February 21, 2008

A MARY POPPINS DAY

On Thursdays I play Mary Poppins – maybe I should say – Maria Popins – with an accent on the second syllable of Popins.



Whaaaaaaat?


Since I am bilingual – speaking both English and Spanish, my friend who is married to a Cuban American has hired me to play in Spanish with her three grandchildren and her daughter-in-law. It was a Christmas gift to the grandchildren so they would not forget their heritage. What my friend doesn’t realize is that is has been the greatest gift to me ever.


I am an empty nester. I do not live near family. I am in my late 50’s and have no grandchildren. Getting to go play with two little boys and their 4 year old big sister is the highlight of my week!


I decided I am Maria Popins today when, for the second time, I arrived and they wanted to know if I had brought my umbrella. “No.” I said.
“You might need it. It is going to rain! Va a llover.” They pointed to the gathering clouds. Sure enough by the time play Spanish was over, big drops were falling.
Anyway – today we sat on the floor with a truck, a car, a fisher price school bus, and a ball. Everyone – including their mother and grandmother had learned the vocabulary. Now we had our legs spread open and we were rolling balls, trucks, cars, and busses back and forth, saying in Spanish, “Yo quiero el bus.” I want the bus. The bus would roll across the floor. “Aqui viene el carro.” Here comes the car. All of a sudden little brother pushed the rather large school bus toward his sister.
“Bang!” It crashed into her knee, not bumped – crashed.
Ouch!
I knew it hurt. She jumped into her mother’s arms and cried. Real drama followed until little brother kissed her. Now she was not sure she wanted to play any more.
She changed her mind when I asked her to sit close to me. “I’ll protect you. I won’t let the bus crash into you ever again.” She was reluctant as we returned to our play.
“Aqui viene el bus.”
“Here comes the bus, little brother announced.”

A savvy little girl flinched and drew into me. I put my hands out to catch the bus. She turned the bus around and sent it to her brother. Once again he rolled it to her. Again she turned her body into mine and I put my hand out to protect her.
The third time was a charm. This time I could tell by her body language that she had overcome her fear. She seemed confident of what was about to happen. The bus started rolling toward us. Then, just before it reached her, she grabbed my hands and put them in front of her. What a smart little girl!
I wonder when I am going to learn my lessons. I keep flinching and drawing back from the hurts in life. All too well I remember the pain. Not only am I not going to allow myself to return to that experience and subject myself to more of the same, I have written off ever considering the confidence I might develop if I were to attempt to overcome the sting that sent me running from the scene of the moment.
Today I learned that I can make an attempt to return to the scene and face that which has caused me pain in the past. I just need to be ready. When I know the inflictor of sorrow, despair, or confusion is on its way, I just need to reach up and grab God’s hands, put them in front of me, and stand confident. His strong right arm is my protector.
Come to think about it – tomorrow morning while I am talking with God, before I start my day, I am going to reach up and grab his hands. I think I will just place them in front of me before I even start my day. Why wait until the onslaught. Better to be protected before the sun ruses on a new day.
So when next you see me – look for God’s hands in front of me.
King David said, “The Lord is a shield around me, my glory, the lifter of my head.” I guess so – With God as my shield, of couse I can walk confidently – with my head held high!
Try it!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

AND THE WINNER IS...

me? ME! weeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!


I rarely win anything, but twice this winter I have won drawings due to my new-found pastime - blogging. I won a gorgeous scarf from my new friend, Kelly way out on the west coast. We actually exchanged gifts. We realized we both love dogs so, once I knew I had won her drawing, I sent her a copy of my DVD, a story about my dog. It is a wonderful tale of a dog gone lost who ended up with a master to care for him when he moved FROM THE POUND TO THE PALACE.

Then Karen notified me that I had won a book! Rattled- Surviving Your Baby’s First Year Without Losing Your Cool by Trish Berg .

What a blast!! I think blogging is the greatest fun since jump rope and jacks. Now some of you many not be old enough to have experienced the wonderful recess activities I enjoyed when I was in grammar school. Anyway - I was a jump rope and jacks fiend. I don't know if jacks ever made a comeback, but I noticed my neighbors all jumping rope in the driveway the other day. I watching longingly and wished I still had the coordination, energy, and skill I had when I was 10.

Since I can’t jump rope I spend my time blogging and learning all sorts of wonderful things about the world outside my little space.

So - back to blogging - what fun it is to win a prize.

Thank you, Karen for my book.

Actually, I am going to read the book really fast as soon as it comes in the mail. Then I am going to wrap it up along with a baby gift I am sending to Stephanie. Stephanie is a beautiful young mom who just gave birth to her first child. I knew her when she was growing up. She was our pastor's daughter and a close friend of my older son. I know she will enjoy this book. I am so happy to be able to give her a cutting-edge primer, even though I know very little about raising babies in this new millennium.

So – I am off to shop for the rest of the gift! I can’t wait to win something else.

Speaking of winning and drawings and giving birth – I have a big surprise due in March – the compilation of a years worth of work. The finished product of my DVD based on my book will be arriving and I will be offering a few freebies for all you who would like to see the story on DVD.

Stay tuned...
Thursday, February 14, 2008

I STEPPED INTO THE JUNGLE AND DID NOT LIKE WHAT I LEANRED

Sitting in the row in front of me were five police officers!

Last week I attended a day-long training on Domestic Violence. I was asked to participate and become acquainted with the issues facing our community and then turn that experience into a presentation to raise awareness.

I sat throughout the day for six hours listening to statistics my mind and heart rejected, watching real life video of activities that should never exist, eavesdropping on conversations that ripped my heart into pieces, and listening to 911 calls that brought out the beast in me.

During the training my awareness was raised alright! Did you know that in some households a 6 year old girl is the most responsible person in the family?

On the other hand I was introduced to groups of people who advocate for helpless victims, victims whose one place where they should be able to find peace and rest is the most violent place in their lives. I heard from social workers who told of resources the community offers mothers and children, and sometimes men. In our community there are ministries that give counseling assistance and pastors who offer hope and refuge.

The one question we all ask when we hear about DV is “Why do they stay?” They have no where to go! I learned that Turning Point of Union County is changing that dilemma Not only have they developed a shelter but long-term housing and job training is offered.

None of this is possible without community awareness.

That is why I participated. Maybe I can help by sharing what I learned with organizations throughout the county, raising awareness that will become a helping hand leading to transforming the life of a woman or child.

Although I hated what I learned last week, my heart swelled with gratification for our civil servants who sacrifice each day so others may find a piece of hope in this life.

When I arrived most seats were taken so I made my way to the back row where I found an empty chair and sat down. Looking up I gasped, “Never have I felt so safe. I will never be as protected as I am right now!”

Sitting in the row in front of me were five police officers! I spent the day observing them and the admiration I already had only swelled.

They are the ones who respond to the 911 calls. They step into violent situations and break up the fights. They carry frightened children from violent scenes and take them to unfamiliar locations in the dark of night. They protect the heartbroken, battered, and desperate victim. Who wants to face that kind of work every day?

As I sat in the conference room hearing about a very bad problem in our community I was comforted by a very good force in my neighborhood – the POLICE. I thought, “ I take them for granted. I expect that they wake up each day to do their duty.” I wondered, “What if we had no one to keep order, no one who would make this huge sacrifice so I might live in peace and safety?”

So Chris, Robert, the rest of you, I want to take a moment to thank you. Thank you for going into the dark places and facing the bad guys. Thank you for making difficult decisions that put people in prison so the rest of the community can live freely Thank you for doing the very hard work so I can arrive at my work safely. Thank you for standing up for the innocent and protecting the helpless. Thank you for working the night shift so I can sleep in peace. Thank you for cruising my neighborhood so my children can run and play. And, yes, I even want to even thank you for sitting along side the road, checking my speed, reminding me to drive safely. Thank you.


Jesus said, "..when you were doing it for one of the least of these you were doing it for me. " Matthew 25:40




Monday, February 11, 2008

MOVING DAY: AN IRRITANT or A PEARL IN THE MAKING?

Have you ever moved? Across town or cross country? Why did you move? Did you leave home or did “the company” send you off on a career relocation. Maybe you are a missionary who has had to move to a foreign field. God bless you. I grew up surrounded by missionaries, moving to bring the Good News to remote people groups. Possibly you’ve been given a military reassignment. Don’t military families move a lot? Bless you too. I admire you and respect you for the sacrifices you make.

Dear Shanda, whom I met at She Speaks last summer ,is in the process of a major move. I think she has a great attitude. I was not so positive about my moves. It wasn’t that I didn’t like adventure. I just didn’t want to say good bye to my life, my comfort zone, my identity, my position in the community, my home, my church, and all the wonderful memories. For sure I didn’t want to experience that last good-bye hug from dear friends, people I would never ever see again!

But God – He used the irritant to create a pearl.

This is what I learned about moving. I have shared it with many a contemporary corporate pilgrim who has overcome the grief of separation anxiety and learned to put the past behind, trusting that God’s relocation plans for our lives are never a mistake.

When I finally submitted to the reality that God's plan for my life would include many moves, I began to search His Word for direction. I learned that I have a lot in common with God’s main characters in the Bible. Almost every one moved! Adam and Eve left the garden. Noah and his family traveled on a ship. God called Abraham to move to the land God had chosen for him. Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Ezra, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus all experienced the challenges as they adjusted to new homes in foreign territories. One thing is ceeertain. Within each move God was glorified.

As I read each of the stories I found a fascinating concept. Once they arrived to new territory, they built altars creating mile stones to point out where they had been. If an altar already existed, they stopped to worship at altars already-built, thanking and praising God for His mercies in the journey. I began to study the concept of altars.

Genesis 8:20,12:7, 13:18, 22:9,26:25, Exodus 17:15, Judges 6:23

I read this about Noah’s altar. Matthew Henry writes: “God is pleased with free-will offerings, and praises that wait for Him. Noah was now turned out into a cold and desolate world, where, one would have thought, his first care would have been to build a house for himself; but, behold, he begins with an altar for God: God, that is the first, must be first served; and he begins well that begins with God.”

So I determined to praise God in the move and build an altar. Oh I didn't "build" an altar with stones and clay. I knelt and dedicated my home to Him before I unpacked the first box. I named the altar, “This house is set aside as a safe place in the neighborhood. Here You Spirit resides. Here all are welcome."

For years moving had been an irritant in my life. Then one day I realized, God had used the moves to get my attention, giving me the opportunity to "build" my house, and my attitude, on the Rock. The joy I have experienced as friends and neighbors enter my home far surpasses the irritant of the move. Today my memory boxes and scrap books are filled with reminders,


"Your pain, sorrow, conflict or trouble – what ever it is – is a pearl in the making! God has allowed the irritant to enter your life and around it He is developing a story that will build you, strengthen you, and give you wisdom to encourage another."

In turn I used the moves as lessons for my sons. I encourage you to build an "altar" in your home. If you are setting out on a journey to move this year, why not attempt the following altar-building activity:

As you prepare to pack and move, choose a box and create a Memory Box. Make sure it is big enough for a photo album and two quart size storage bags.

Take pictures of your house, all its nooks and crannies, making sure to capture marks on walls (growth charts), favorite hiding places and hang outs, maybe even favorite places in your community. One day you will create a memory or scrap book that will delight your children.

Take the storage bags outside. Dig up some dirt and put it in one bag. Gather some stones and put them in the other bag. Put the pictures (or camera), the photo album, and the storage bags in the memory box.

Weeks later, when you are in your new home, gather the family for a house blessing. Read the story of Noah and his altar. Take the rocks and dirt from your last home and fashion an altar so your family can remember that God brought you safely to this place to serve him. Enjoy the pictures and ask God to help you create a full and wonderful life in your new home.

For those of you who have never moved, you can still "build an altar" in your home. It would be an honor to know about the mile stones your family is celebrating.
Thursday, February 7, 2008

THE IRRITANT IN THE OYSTER- LITTLE GIRL LONELY

"Your pain, sorrow, conflict or trouble – what ever it is – is a pearl in the making! God has allowed the irritant to enter your life and around it He is developing a story that will build you, strengthen you, and give you wisdom to encourage another."
Children should not have to endure irritants – or should they? I find it amazing what children face as they grow up, how they overcome the experiences they face, and move on to develop and strengthen their own characters.

I walked into the 3rd grade classroom full of strangers – once again the new girl.

“Here I go. Put on a smile. Peer into the eyes of potential friends. Look deep to see if anyone is interested in including the new girl.”

Looking hopefully around, I considered my classmates’ body language. Those who glanced away were not interested in me. Those who smiled back may possibly be giving me a chance. On that particular day no one even noticed that a new girl had arrived “on the block.”

For several days I tried to fit in --- to no avail. I knew had to devise a plan to make friends. What would it be? Then I noticed that part of our daily routine included, not only recess, but a stop along the way. We had the option to stop at the snack bar and purchase a mid-morning treat. What I observed was that all my classmates chose donuts. I thought to myself. “If I buy each of the boys and girls a donut, maybe they will notice me and like me.” I thought I could buy their friendship so I devised a plan. I did have one problem, though. I had no money. I pondered my dilemma until I reconciled that stealing a dollar from my mother would not be a bad thing to do. After all, one dollar could make a lot of people happy. The next day I followed through with my plan. It succeeded. Now, I had everyone’s attention and affirmation. Suddenly everyone wanted to play with me. So I spent a day of bliss until my mother arrived to take me home and the teacher thanked her for her generosity. Flabbergasted, my mother stood silently looking down at me as the teacher told her how nice it had been of us to treat the class. Suddenly my scheme crumbled right before my eyes. I had only embarrassed myself. Non one was impressed now and instead of winning friends, I had alienated myself. No one wanted to play with a thief.
I can’t tell you how long I remained the outsider. I don’t think it lasted for very long. I will tell you, though, that the irritant called loneliness turned into a pearl called empathy. I have not lost that pearl. I still catch a glimpse of it from time to time.

Recently I found a flaw in a friend. I had a choice to step in and tell her about it or ignore it. I am glad I didn’t say anything to her. I later learned that her daughter was experiencing another bout with depression. My friend didn’t need another burden.

I don’t like the sad memories of my childhood, yet I would not trade them. Those irritants taught me how not to treat people. One thing I learned for sure. I am very aware of the newcomer. I always want to be sensitive to welcome, invite, and include. Guess what? I have experienced the great trade off – as a result of the irritant, you would not believe how many wonderful friends I have today!

Time in the oyster shell can be time well spent if we emerge with life lessons that challenge and change us.

I know God allows moments of despair in our lives so we can lean on him and grow during the dark hours. Would you care to let us know how an irritant in your life made you a better person?
Monday, February 4, 2008

FROM THE SCOLDING TO THE OYSTER BED

…AND ON TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL!! You might want to read my previous post about the PEARL behind the Giants Super Bowl win.
I am stopping on my life’s journey to ponder the many irritants God has allowed in my life. I want to do this to encourage you. One day, the affliction, the troubles you are experiencing at this moment will emerge a pure pearl – white, precious in His sight – a comfort for another in their time of trouble.

Your pain, sorrow, conflict or trouble – what ever it is – is a pearl in the making! God has allowed the irritant to enter your life and around it He is developing a story that will build you, strengthen you, and give you wisdom to encourage another.

Today I am going to tell you about an experience I had in the first grade. I remember my little desk and its location. I sat across the room from the windows. My mind took me many times each day on a trip out and over the heads and faces of my classmates, longing to be outside – not in the classroom where I so often felt confined. I wanted to run free and do my own thing, not have to listen to the instructions of the teacher.

On this particular day – a day in the fall, we were preparing for a party. First we had to complete our art project and then the room mothers would show up with treats and games. The teacher began, giving us step by step instructions on decorating a fall placemat where we could place our cupcakes and chocolate milk when they arrived. I did not follow her lead. Being a creative little soul, I did my own thing – listening to the muse within my soul. At the end of the class, she used my disobedience to teach a lesson! “There are consequences for a student who does not follow instructions.” She held up my project, informing me that I would not participate in the afternoon’s celebration. I could sit at the back of the room and watch. Maybe next time I would follow directions! She wadded up my pathetic piece of “art work” and threw it into the trash can! My self esteem followed the discarded placemat and there I remained – at the bottom of the heap, in a dark and lonely place for many, many years. I vowed to NEVER try anything creative. It only got me into trouble!

Little did I know that God was using this experience to develop his perfect plan for my life.

Fast forward two decades. Now I was a young mother in a Bible study at my local church. Our pastor’s topic of study – The Creation Story led us to ponder what it meant to be created in His image, in the image of God. She asked us to consider how each of us might “look” like our Father. “In other words,” she asked, “What characteristics have you inherited from your heavenly Father?”

What a concept! I knew I walked like my daddy and I knew I had my mother’s wander lust, but look like God, act like the Almighty Creator? No way! I pondered this homework assignment for a week. Then, the night before I had to answer I read, “In the beginning, God created…” I stopped in my tracks! The word “created” jumped off the page at me.

Created. God is creator. He is creative. He makes no two alike. Each sunset is an original. Each child He designs is unique. How many species of butterflies and fishes are there?

Being creative is a virtue not a vice. Creativity is a gift from God not a frivoulous past time!

My mind took me back to the classroom and the trash can of so long ago, to the place where I had laid dormant for so many years. Slowly a shell began to open. A loving hand reached out and took me, bringing me to the surface, reminding me of all the ideas and thoughts I had suppressed over the years. Oh! A light blinked in the recesses of my mind. I remember making suggestions about the homecoming float, how my classmates had implemented them and how we won that year's prize. I recall decorating my home and getting positive reviews from my husband and mother-in-law. The older women in the church had liked my table decorations and asked me to take charge of the next event. The neighborhood association chose me as the recipient for the best landscape. Who me? Yes you.

Little things that God used, one layer after another to create a pearl that would one day emerge with enough confidence to encourage others in their quest to fulfill their God-given gifts began to surface in my mind.

Let me be specific: I love mentoring young women, encouraging them to enjoy being the best wife and mom they can be. The irritants that challenged me as a mother and a spouse have emerged as lessons for others. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to teach a class of teenagers and see them succeed. You see I determined to be an encourager to my students, to be patient and find their talents even if the lessons I taught were not their fortes. I find great satisfaction in sharing ideas with friends – ideas that help them create warm and hospitable environments in their homes.

I wish I could say that I am a pearl. That I look at myself and say, “Yes, you have finally arrived to a place of complete confidence. You no longer struggle with issues of insecurity.” But, I cannot look at myself in the mirror and happily say these things. (Oh I know God sees me as a pearl. He says in Proverbs 31:10 that a virtuous woman’s worth is far more than the most precious of jewels.) On the other hand, honestly, I am not sure we are meant to reach a point where we believe God is finished with the pearl. I am afraid that, if I ever see the pearl in me, I might decide I no longer need God. I never want to reach that point in life. I want to always be aware of Him, lean on Him and turn to Him for help and guidance, Him who began a good work in me and Him who is not finished with me yet.

What about you? How is God using the irritant to develop the pearl in your life?
Saturday, February 2, 2008

THE OYSTER BED


"Your pain, sorrow, conflict or trouble – what ever it is – is a pearl in the making! God has allowed the irritant to enter your life and around it He is developing a story that will build you, strengthen you, and give you wisdom to encourage another."

A couple of you commented on this point I made in my last post and I heard from one of the ladies who heard me speak that this statement rings true in your life.

I do not like to struggle. Nor do I like trials or tribulations. I enjoy smooth sailing. I am a life-is-a-breeze kind of gal. Please don’t send me on detours or put speed bumps in my path. I don’t do well when God calls me to attention and announces that it is time for a trial. I do not like it!

Yet, each time I emerge, I am a stronger person. I feel more confident. I come away with a greater understanding and knowledge because inevitably there are lessons to learn - - - in the oyster bed.

I’m going to share some of my oyster bed stories – describe a bit of the affliction, trial, or irritant and then tell how I emerged from the painful circumstance.

Right now this is my table of contents:
GIANT EMOTIONS – How losing his legs led him to inspire the Giants through a winning season
THE SCOLDING – How a creative exercise sent my self esteem into the deep
THOU SHALT NOT STEAL – How a scheme to make friends put me outside the circle of friends
WE’RE MOVING – How long distance moves shatter a life yet shape a character
BACK TO SCHOOL – How a mid-life return to the classroom humbles and helps
WAIT MANAGEMENT – How God’s call to His Wait Room strengthens the most fragile

I’ll start with GIANT EMOTIONS because of its appropriate and timely theme. Tomorrow is the Super Bowl. The Giants play the Patriots. I am not a football fan – so I really don’t care who plays who. What I do care about is the people and their stories.

I admire and respect our soldiers who leave their homes, sacrificing their lives so others in the world might one day live in free societies. I hate that so many soldiers have died and I suffer heaps – I mean it hurts me to see the soldiers who return home changed men and women – changed because they have come face to face with life altering circumstances. In other words – they have found themselves in the oyster bed – pearls in the making.

Last night on the ABC news I met a pearl - Lt. Col. Greg Gadson.
http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/PersonOfWeek/story?id=4229330&page=1
While he was in his oyster bed he lost two legs and almost an arm when an IED (improvised explosive device) landed nearby tearing apart his body. He should not have lived. But he did and today he is credited with the success of the Giants’ football season. Having played football at Army with New York wide receivers coach Mike Sullivan he motivated the players with inspiring pre-game speeches, filled with encouragement to persevere. He could be seen on the sidelines in Green Bay two weeks ago cheering on the team and he will be seen once again tomorrow beside his team at Super Bowl XLII.

A pearl develops when an irritant lands inside the oyster. It is not something that happens overnight. The oyster sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor where a beautiful gem develops over time. In the dark recesses of the oyster the pearl grows until one day it emerges pure and white, a trophy to be shown off. Greg Gadson is a PEARL. Who better to spur these massive men - epitomes of human perfection - onto victory than one who, even though he has lost his legs, has not lost his heart.


I salute you – American hero, a trophy for our historical archives, a pearl.

I know each one of you has several experiences where you faced insurmountable trials and you emerged stronger – maybe victorious. Won’t you share your stories with us. I know that like Lt. Col. Greg Gadson will encourage his giant friends tomorrow your stories would be an encouragement to us also.

You can start your post in the comments section and then finish up on your own blog. See you there.