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Knowledge, inspiration, and encouragement from a Christian perspective is my goal. I post a weekly commentary, which could be about world events or the events of my week. Other days I might share stories, recipes, homemaking tips, book reviews, political talk, biblical truth, or other blogs and websites I like. This blog is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

Monday, January 21, 2008

GRANDMA'S COOKIE JAR

Today I went treasure hunting with my friend, Tam. She calls it antiquing, but I think of it as treasure hunting. Unlike my friend, who collects antiques and knows what she's looking for, I usually go without a specific treasure in mind. I only know that when I see it, it will spark a memory from my past and then I'll buy it not for its monetary value, but for its sentimental value.

Several things caught my eye as I moved through rooms of antiques, some displayed in glass cases, others arranged in individual vendor booths. I overheard a woman beside me exclaim, "I used to have one of them. I had that whole set. Whatever happened to that?" I didn't see exactly what she was talking about, but I could relate to her wondering whatever happened to that thing, and I sort of laughed to myself. I wasn't the only one capturing memories.

Every time I go treasure hunting I see all kinds of things that remind me of my childhood and I wish I would have taken better care of my stuff. But I was a kid and who knew that some day those things would be displayed behind glass with a price tag much bigger than it originally sold for. I saw old children's books like the ones I used to read, toys, games and figurines like I once had, and other things like household items that belonged to my mother or grandmother. At times something would look familiar but I couldn't quite place where I had seen it before.

About twenty minutes into my treasure hunt I stopped and said a quick prayer, "Lord help me to find something really special today." I know I don't use the power of prayer near enough, so when the thought of praying entered my mind I quickly made my request and then kept searching. I almost bought a pretty glass dish that sparkled clear as it caught the light but decided it wasn't what I was looking for.

Tam and I must have spent two to three hours scanning the displays of antiques that were set up like a maze of treasures with each room leading us into the next. She found some pretty pink cups to match the pattern she collects and a small Santa figurine with a loveable face. By then it was 2:00 and I hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch so we headed to the front of the store to pay for her finds. As she stood in line, I wandered over to a display case of jewelry that I hadn't eyed yet because we unknowingly walked past it as we entered the store. Jewelry always catches a girl's eye, antique or not.

The line waiting to pay was long, so I spent a lot of time there moving back and forth between two display cases of jewelry. Still, nothing caught my eye so strongly that it begged to be purchased. Feeling tired and tired of looking, I turned around and there it was...my grandma's cookie jar, the only one I remember her using when I was a kid. I can still hear the sound of that metal lid squeaking against the glass jar as grandma turned open the container that held those yummy treats she always had on hand for us. The jar looked exactly the same. It was red with a red lid and a hand-painted flower on the front. I snatched that jar from the shelf and carried it close like it was a baby. "My grandma's cookie jar!" I said to Tam. "This is it. It looked just like this."

With an expression of disbelief, she shook her head. "You're kidding." She was still shaking her head as she paid for her items. It couldn't have been more than an hour ago that I had told her about my grandma's cookie jar and how I wanted to find one just like it. "It's nothing fancy and probably isn't worth much money, but it reminds me of grandma," I said. And now here I was holding the very treasure I was hoping to find.

Every now and then God winks at us and lets us know he's there and he cares about the things we care about. Every now and then he answers a prayer exactly as we ask within hours of asking. He doesn't always give us everything we pray for, but sometimes he gives us exactly what we want in the most amazing ways. I don't know which I'm more excited about, the cookie jar or my answered prayer. Fortunately I don't have to choose. I love them both.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

DON'T QUIT YOUR DREAM JOB

Few people get through life without feeling discouraged at times. Who hasn't felt like giving up? Who hasn't felt frustrated by life's challenges? One of the most frustrating things I've experienced is the search to find work that fulfills me and work that I'm good at.

I ran into a friend last week who was in my high school graduating class. I hadn't seen her for about eight years. She expressed the same sense of frustration about her work. She said she feels trapped in a job that she hates. What she longs for is to be a dietician. But the work she's doing now supplies her with a good pay check and medical coverage. She can't walk away from it to chase an uncertain dream. Yet the longing in her heart won't go away.

Like many people who are stuck in jobs that aren't suited for their personalities and abilities, my friend is totally discouraged and constantly frustrated. For the past two weeks I have felt the same way, which is why I haven't written lately. I want writing to be my life's work, but I've accumulated a stack of rejection slips from magazine editors and I wonder why I even bother to write this weekly web log. Does anyone even read it?

I considered stepping away from writing until I read a wonderful story, The Valentine Cat. It's a children's book that I picked up at a basement book sale. As I read the book to my daughter, I began to feel that the message was meant for me. Delaina didn't seem as interested.

The story is about a young man named Tell who gives up on his hope of being an artist because no one would buy his paintings. To pay the bills, he goes to work for a shoemaker. Every night Tell walked home from his job with his head down and a weary look on his face. But when he finds a half-frozen cat in the street and takes it home, his spirits are lifted and he's inspired to paint once again.

To make a long story short, the cat plays a part in leading a royal princess to Tell's home where she sees his wall paintings and falls in love with his work. Tell moves to the Royal palace and works for the rest of his life as a painter, happily painting every wall in the castle.

I guess the moral of the story is: Never give up on your dream because you never know when a breakthrough might be right around the corner. When you're passionate about something, you'll do it without pay and whether people notice or not. You'll do it without encouragement or praise. Pursuing our dreams makes us feel more alive. It puts a spark in our eyes and a spring to our step. We have to find ways to work toward those inner longings called dreams.

Tell was miserable when he stopped pursuing his passion. Then he made a decision that eventually changed his life: "If I can't be an artist to please the world, I'll be an artist to please myself."