Friday, March 25, 2005
Shells are another interest of mine. I gather them, not really in an orderly collection, but I fill glass jars, baskets, boxes, and big shells, with shells. I have gotten rather picky, always looking for colorful, shiny, rare ones. But I also enjoy the pieces of the big ones, the rare ones, the ones that "would have been so perfect."
My life isn't perfect. I liken it to the shells. I recently read a little gift book, entitled, "My beautiful broken shell." It was an analogy of how God looks at our lives, how we learn from God. I try not to be overly spiritual about my shell-hunting, finding, and beach-walking, but I do draw little lessons that feel like I'm at least learning something as I go. Before my friend, Paula, showed me her little book about the shell, I had already had one lesson that especially felt like it was "for me." I had shared the story with her, and she shared the book with me. My lesson went like this....
A junonia is a special deep water shell that rarely washes onto the beach. It is a shell that will complete the collection for any true sheller, or make an impressive addition to whatever shells you have. Everyone who's been looking for a long time will know the shell if you mention it, but few have been lucky enough to find "the perfect junonia."
A Florida fighting conch is MUCH more common - they come a wide range of colors, conditions, from perfect reds, yellows, purplish, browns, striped, solids, sharp-topped, to worn and rounded. There are so many on the beach that often I just don't pick them up. I have hundreds, and they fill a jar easily. I just don't need any more.
One week after a recent storm, the shells were so good, I told my family it was like being in a dream where you just keep finding treasure or money or something with real value! I don't think my shells would make me rich, but I feel rich to just be able to have them. For at least two mornings, I brought home buckets of my favorite tulips, olives, cones, nutmegs, worm shells, shark's eyes, even a lion's paw, on and on! It was fantastic shelling, but I didn't, I hadn't found a perfect junonia. I just kept going out every morning with the idea, "okay, God, I'm here to find my junonia."
One big pile was just layered with shells, deeply stacked on one another - and not white, washed-out clam shells, but good Florida conchs and such. I looked at a plain, beautiful conch, and thought, "pick up that one." Oh, I really don't need that shell - I have so many like that, it is so much like the hundreds of others. But I felt again, "pick up that one." And I actually chuckled, thinking, "so God, if I pick up that one, are you going to lead me to my perfect junonia?" And that's when I really felt like it wasn't silly anymore, but God was saying to me, "I'm always leading you to your perfect junonia."
No matter where I am, what I'm going through, God is leading me. It may be that I'm sorting through the broken shells, the sunbleached shells, the half-shells that "would have been so beautiful" but it is in the midst of my search that God is there for me, walking me through the brokeness of shells, and I wouldn't give up that experience for anything.