Inspired Saturday Morning Thoughts...

 The Stone

I shared the above link because reading that story online this morning inspired the thoughts I want to share in this blog post. It is a really cool story with more than one great message, and it is well worth taking the time to read.

I am going to share something personal from my past. But in no way am I sharing the experience to make you feel sympathy for me or to cast a shadow over anyone else. I see God at work in the experience from the vantage point of today. And that is why I want to write about it. At this stage of my life, there is absolutely no bitterness. It's just a part of my journey.

I now see this as just one example of how God takes something painful and uses it for our ultimate good.

My mother died when I was 28 years old. I have two younger brothers. And at the time of my mother's death, I had one sister-in-law. Three years following my mother's passing, I gained a second sister-in-law.

In the last weeks of my mom's life, she wanted to have a very personal and private conversation with me about what she had chosen to leave me. She told me that my dad would have control over all her jewelry because of the monetary value. My assumption at the time was that she thought he might sell some of her diamonds to recover the financial investment. (She had several large diamonds in rings and in a necklace). But she told me she wanted me to have the item that was the biggest surprise and the most precious to her of all the gifts my dad had ever given her; her white beaver fur coat. And then she proceeded to tell me how to care for it and store it. It was a hard conversation because I didn't want to talk about things and I didn't want to acknowledge that she was going to die. But, at the same time, hearing her tell me how she felt about this coat and that she chose it for me herself was very meaningful. As a daughter who felt she could never quite be what her mother would have chosen in a daughter, this bequest made me feel extremely valued by and special to my mother.

Quite honestly, I have never cared for fur coats. So the value of the fur was zero to me. I rarely ever wore the coat. It was almost too special to wear. (Something I strongly related to in the above story.) The value of the coat was 100% in the sentiment and love it represented. And ultimately it began to disintegrate no matter how carefully I tried to preserve it. But with or without the actual coat, the memory of my mother's words and wishes that day will always be a part of me. The fact that she needed to have a conversation with me in which she conveyed how special and valued I was to her as her daughter meant more to me than any gift of any monetary value she could have given me. I treasured the fur coat because she treasured it and because I finally realized that she treasured me. I am now a 52-year-old woman (three years older than my mom was when she died) and remembering that conversation still brings tears to my eyes.

My dad didn't do anything with my mother's jewelry for a while. And then one day he gave me my mother's watch. He said he had chosen that particular item for me. Again, the watch was not at all my taste. It had little diamond chips sticking up in every loop of the white gold band; chips that pulled snags in all of my clothes if I tried to wear it. And I had hoped he would choose to give me one of my mother's rings. No particular ring, just one of them. She had many. But I would not ask because I never wanted anyone in my family to be able to accuse me of caring about "things." The only item I had ever specifically asked for was my mother's recipe box -- because it had handwritten recipes and my mother's handwriting was -- and still is -- valuable to me.

Shortly after I was given the watch, my dad gave beautiful diamond dinner rings to each of my sisters-in-law. And I was deeply crushed. Not because of the value of the diamond rings being so much greater than the tiny diamonds in my watch. But because that action conveyed to me that I was the least special to him as his actual daughter. I felt humiliated as well as wounded. I felt insignificant. I felt devalued. I never wore the watch again after that. It became a symbol of my lesser value to me and it stayed in a drawer for years until I had the idea to remove the band, add posts, and wear the two sides of the band as drop earrings. I still don't wear them often. But the "stigma" I once felt over the one gift my dad chose for me personally seemed to go away after I changed them into something I could actually enjoy wearing.

As a side note: I was once married to a man who told me emphatically that no matter how much money he ever had, he would never "waste it" on a big diamond for me. A little more "devaluation" added by another significant male.

Fast forward to 2003.

After a bitter and painful divorce, I met John and fell in love. Just as I had never asked for a big diamond in the past, I did not ask John for a big diamond. When he would take me into jewelry stores and ask me to show him what kind of rings I liked, I was shy about pointing to anything large. It was all about him, not what he could give me. I didn't want him to think I was interested in "things." Little did I know that he had already chosen a ring for me (a surprise) and was trying to make sure I would like the cut and setting. AS IF any woman would not have been absolutely thrilled with a 3.86 carat marquis diamond. (Are you kidding me???)

I've gotten used to wearing an ice skating rink on my left hand, but in the first few months of wearing that engagement ring, I could not look at it without tears. Not because I had ever longed for such a large diamond. I really had not. It was never about the diamond or the monetary value. I'm truly not a "things" person. I am a relationship person. I just wanted to be loved and valued. It's all I've ever really longed for. And every time I gazed at my diamond, I was in awe that any man would love and value me enough to WANT to give me a ring like that (even if he could afford to). And, to me, my ring screamed that someone really, truly loved and adored me.

In reality, a large diamond doesn't always represent love and value. In the case of a Kobe Bryant, a big diamond can be a symbol of betrayal and forgiveness (or tolerance). But because of the wounds inflicted on me through jewelry "statements" (both spoken and unspoken), John conveyed such worth to me through the choosing of that ring. He had no idea. But God knew every detail of my life and every wound I had ever suffered.

I believe with all my heart that God chose John for me. And I am humbled to this day, eight years later, that God would be so good to me. Any time someone tells me I deserve John, I am quick to correct them. No way. I could never deserve him. He is a blessing. If I took credit and allowed myself to believe I deserved my blessings, then I would have to view anyone who lacks my blessings as being less deserving than I am. And I know that isn't true.

I got over the injury of the way my dad chose to distribute my mom's jewelry a long time ago. I got over it because I wanted to get over it. I didn't want to be defined by it. I didn't want to make it a focal point of my life. And I truly wanted to forgive from my heart. One of the ways I overcame my emotions was to acknowledge to myself and to God that obviously He did not see fit for me to have those items for some reason. And I chose to believe that in His wisdom, He was teaching me something far more valuable than diamonds. I chose to cherish my mother's recipe cards as more meaningful than a piece of expensive jewelry. But for many years, there was still pain associated with the memory. Until God brought John into my life. And only after God had taught me not to over-value something like a diamond, He (through John) put a stunning diamond -- the likes of which I had never even seen -- on my finger. And I remember saying to God, "In all those times I felt less valued because I wore a cubic zirconia or because my dad chose daughters-in-law over me, You knew I was going to one day have not only a spectacular diamond, but something of much greater value ... a spectacular husband who loves and cherishes me. You knew this was going to be a part of my journey, too. And You knew there would be deeper meaning and joy because of my wounds."

I think this was when I started to comprehend that God does care about the details of my life. He is IN the details. But that means that He was also in the painful details and the things I could not understand while I was in the middle of hard times. It's easy to give Him credit for the blessings of today. I think sometimes we want to remove Him from our pain as if He lacks the power to intervene. But the truth is, if He is sovereign (and He is), He is sovereign over all.

Today I am actually very happy that I was given my mom's watch. All feelings of devaluation attached to it are gone (as far as I can consciously discern). No females have descended from me. I have a son and three grandsons. But I have four nieces who are very special to me. And none of them got to know their Grandma Jane. They were all born after she died.

Each of my earrings has five little teardrops with a small diamond in each. And one day it occurred to me what a special privilege I have to share a little bit of Grandma Jane with each of my nieces. A ring could not be divided among each of them this way. But I have decided that I am going to take each strand apart and make a one teardrop set of earrings for each of my nieces (keeping one teardrop for myself). And I will give them their special Grandma Jane earrings on a specific special occasion (as yet to be determined by me). I'm having a hard time deciding if this occasion should be their 18th birthday, their high school graduation, their wedding day, or what. I want it to be the same for all of them. And because I'm excited about doing this, I will probably choose the closest occasion (since my oldest niece will graduate after her 18th birthday). I hope this gift will convey how special they each are to me and be a lasting reminder of how special they would have been to their Grandma Jane.

I think my idea would please my mom. And that makes it an even greater honor for me.

God knew how much it would mean to me to do something like this for my nieces. He made a greater gift possible through what I once viewed as the lesser gift. That is so like Him. He turns everything upside down. Strength in weakness. Beauty from ashes.

My worth can't come from my dad or my brothers or my son or even John. It certainly cannot come through possessions -- even treasured possessions. I comprehend my value to God through the sacrifice of His Son. But I'm thankful He has turned enough things upside down in my life to show me His sovereignty and His love in tangible experiences that strengthen my faith and my ability to trust Him.

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