In an instant, I went from totally relaxed, sunning on the beach, to paralyzed by pain.  All it took was a gust of wind and a few children running past to kick up and spray the powdered glass that is sand into my face. One tiny speck (that felt like a shard) landed in my eye.

Time stopped. The beach disappeared and I was momentarily paralyzed by pain.  My eyes slammed shut like an oyster shell. I blinked. I blinked again. It scraped the grain across my eye. I clamped my eyes shut. Next came a flood of tears.  The tears washed the sand  away. I sighed  with relief.  (Funny how pain takes us INTO ourselves and stretches out time like a rubber-band- isn’t it?)

It’s strange that the same grain of sand that caused so much pain in my eye, can get into an oyster and become a pearl.  Of course, oysters are created with the ability to coat (with shimmering layer after layer of nacre) the irritating invader, creating a pearl. and  my eye  is not.

I’m learning that my heart, is.

Over the years, I’ve experienced plenty of oyster moments.  Things that had temporarily paralyzed me with pain and left me blinded, tears flooding my eyes, pain threatening to burst my heart, have, over time, with grief and healing and God, and most importantly with grace- both given and received, have been turned into pearls. To be honest,  I am amazed.

I can’t do a tutorial explaining HOW it happened. And  I know that it doesn’t ALWAYS happen… But for me, it has. I’ve learned to string the pearls and wear them for others to see. In writing, in speaking, in truth telling and in living with love and authenticity. For one purpose: to share hope.

I don’t know what today is like for you. Today may be the day the sand has hit your eye.  The pain may be paralyzing.  You may be blinking away tears while you try to read these words.  You may wonder if it will ever subside and whether you will ever be able to see past your pain.

The answer is YES. It can.  If you let grace and grief do it’s work.  I’m praying that it does.

Or- maybe, you have a box of your own pearls.  But are afraid to let them be seen by others– You won’t wear them… you worry about them..I pray you have courage to share them- they are beautiful and hope shared is an amazing thing.

You’re not alone. You’re not forgotten.  Don’t give up. I’m praying that God provides the grace, the healing, the time and the peace that you need. I pray that the tears help wash away the pain, and that when you can see again.. you find a pearl, of hope.

Dear Lord- I don’t know how you do it, but I know that you can bring hope to the most hope-less situations and peace and healing tot he most painful ones. I pray today that you would apply the nacre of your love and grace to the hurts of those who come here… and that someday they would find a pearl formed from their pain. I love you lord- and thank you for the string of pearls I can wear and share.. I pray we all can find that courage that comes from you-amen

One of my most treasured passages –

I stood at the top of  32 concrete steps, straddling my trusty Bubble-Yum pink , Huffy dirt bike, one foot firmly on the concrete, the other on the bike’s pedal.  The steps followed the hill’s steeply contoured driveway down and around from the church’s front door/ drop off spot, to the parking lot.  

This was our favorite and most fearful spot to ride bikes.   I could feel the pink rubber hand grips rubbing the crook of my thumb raw as I twisted my hands nervously.  I knew I was going to make it- I’d done it before.. but still.. I was afraid. My stomache flip-flopped.

32 jolting, jarring steps, building speed, then the long SWOOP, of smooth concrete  where we coasted all the way around the back of the building, finally pedalling again when it was time to climb back up to the top of the hill, to do it again.

Maybe it was luck  or divine intervention, maybe it was skill, but we made it.  Mostly.  And, when we didn’t?  Our bumps and bruises, bloodied knees and road rashed palm injuries,  became badges of courage, not deterrants.  We started to carry bandaids in our bike baskets and seat packs.  We bound up our injuries like a mash unit on site.

What would have scared our mothers to death (had they known what we were doing) was to us- a challenge to be conquered.  And conquer we did. Together, one after another, learning form each others experiences.  We learned that the key was to keep the handle bars aimed  STRAIGHT ahead  and NOT to stop pedaling.  “KEEP PEDALING, you’re almost there!” we screamed to each other. And we did.

Lately, watching the news and hearing how it’s affecting people close to me- has felt a lot like standing at the top of those church steps and riding down, over and over again.  Economic crisis. foreclosure, job loss, bankruptcy, bailouts, ballistic missle testing, starvation, addictions and AIDs..the list of jolting bumps continues.  

Each one is like another concrete step– ”  BANG, BANG, BUMP.” I can feel the jarring jolt as each one touches- me, my family, friends and the world around us. It’s overwhelming, frightening.  Each day you stand at the top of the steps and wonder if you’ll make it down, unscathed.

The difference is-this set of steps can’t be avoided.  I can’t turn around and ride home safely.  However- we can encourage each other, we can care for the bumps, bruises and bloodied knees that we come into contact with. I know this- we are not the first generation to face this kind of crisis and it will end in a coast leading to another hill to climb. 

Today,  I encourage you-keep your wheel turned straight ahead– and KEEP pedaling.  I know the economy sucks, I know the needs are overwhelming and so are the crisis’ we are facing, nationally and individually.  But, we can make it.  We can remind each other to “KEEP your wheel straight! Keep pedaling!” We can help to bind up each others bloodied knees and road rashed palms. Other Someday they will be our generations badges of courage. Reminders of how we made it. through, together.  If we just keep pedaling.

1 Cor 9:24-27

 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.