Maybelle was her name but everyone affectionately called her “Granny”. Granny was a bit eccentric but well loved by our community as well as family. A spry old woman, she was always on the go, never slowing down. Even as children, we had trouble keeping up with Granny.
Granny loved pearls. The odd thing was that as much as she loved them, no-one was allowed to buy them for her. She would often buy herself pearls, only for them to disappear. We never understood this. How could a person lose something as valuable as pearls and not seem to worry or care that they did was beyond our small minds and comprehension.
On Granny’s bedroom dresser was another reminder of how peculiar she was. It was a small golden handcrafted box. Cherubs were delicately carved in the fine gold. Instead of using this beautiful and valuable box for the safe keeping of her pearls, nestled in the soft purple lining were a thorn and a mustard seed. Often, she would loving and tearfully look at the contents or delicately touch the box. How we laughed at Granny. She was such a foolish old woman to keep such nonsense and worthless items in this priceless box all the while unable to keep track of the real valuables.
Granny was in her seventies when she was diagnosed with cancer. How angry I was at her God for allowing such a disease to attack and ravish her body. How angry I was at her for the calmness and acceptance that she had of her inevitable death. I watched as my lively grandmother became bedridden. I was sixteen the year she died. I cried for myself, for I knew that life would never be the same without her. And I was angry at her for leaving. I was angry at God for allowing her to suffer so much before He took her away.
The whole town turned out for Grannys’ funeral. Again, I was angered. Instead of tears and mourning, I saw smiles, laughter and celebration. It seemed as if they were having a grand party instead of a funeral. Then, one by one people started coming up to the platform to speak, each carrying two small boxes with them.
The first to speak was the woman who ran the shelter for abused women. As she spoke, chills began to creep up my spine. “I was married for years to a man who both mentally and physically abused me. Even though I lived in terror with him, the thought of leaving also frightened me. I had two small children and no where to go. It was Granny who came to my rescue. At first, she placed in my hand this box with a thorn and mustard seed inside. You can imagine my surprise when I saw what she had given me. But, I listened to her as told me the reason. Granny explained that everyone has thorns in their lives that they must be pricked by, but that with the faith of a mustard seed, any obstacle could be overcome and turned around for the good, for themselves and others. It was Granny who gave me the courage to leave my abusive husband. She helped me find a place for myself and children. When I approached her about starting a shelter for other women so that they would also have a place to turn to, she smiled and handed me this pearl. Although I have always treasured the pearl, my most precious treasures have been this box with the thorn and mustard seed. Many times when I have faced difficulties, I have looked at them and heard her words.”
Next in line was the man who ran the alcohol and drug center. He cleared his throat as he began to speak. “I met Granny under the worst possible circumstances that I could have met anyone. I was an alcoholic at the young age of eighteen when I was involved in a car accident that killed another young sixteen year old boy. You can imagine my emotions when his mother came up to the jail to visit me. I was prepared for the worst; anger and accusations. What I was not prepared for was the love and forgiveness that I received. She told me that she knew that her son was with God and that she would someday be reunited with him. She also gave me this box with the thorn and mustard seed with the same explanation that you all well know. When I went to court, they wanted to put me in prison for manslaughter. Granny convinced them that I needed help and not punishment. She even offered to pay for the treatment. The treatment center was the cure that I needed. Granny helped me to get the grants to go to college. After I graduated, I saved every penny that I could and a few years later took the money to Granny to repay her back. But, she refused the money. So, I used the money to get our local treatment center started. On the first day that I opened the center, Granny also gave me this box with the pearl. Do I need to tell you which is the most priceless to me?”
Our local beautician spoke next. “I was fifteen, unmarried and pregnant when I met Granny. I was a frightened child about to have a baby. I had already scheduled to have an abortion, for, I felt this was the only option that I had. Granny talked me out of having the abortion and to adopt my child out instead. She said that I carried a gift from God that would be a gift to a childless couple. And yes, like many of you, I received the box with the thorn and mustard seed. Granny was with me when I gave birth to my son and with me when I gave him to his new family. She helped put me through school so that I could become a beautician. She also gave me my box with the pearl. But the story does not end there. The family who adopted my son was a loving and Christian family and my son grew up to be a fine doctor. He has saved countless lives in his years, including many of yours.”
Story after story was told about Granny and her gifts of thorns, mustard seeds and pearls. How ashamed I was as I thought about the countless of times I laughed over Granny losing her precious pearls but keeping the golden box. How livid I was with God for taking such a loving woman from us.
Finally, our minister began to speak. “My parents were atheists and raised me the same way. Granny was my neighbor for many years. I often scoffed at her and her “God”, yet, at the same time was amazed by and envied her faith, her serenity and the peace that she had. Many times I would visit Granny when I was troubled, just to get a taste of her peace. It took Granny a lot longer to convert me than most, but, she was patient. She kept praying for me and always had her door open. One day I was facing what I thought was a major life crisis and went to talk to Granny. That was the day that she gave me my box with the thorn and mustard seed. It was also the day I accepted Christ as my Saviour. When I opened my first church, Granny then gave me my box with the pearl”.
Then slowly, he opened an envelope and took out the folded paper inside. “Granny asked me to read this at her funeral. It was sealed when she gave it to me and she made me promise not to open it until today”.
Slowly, he began to read.
“Dear Family and I say family, for we are all family in the eyes of God. Many of you have been receptionists of my boxes. Although everyone understands the meaning behind the thorns and mustard seed, today, I will explain the meaning behind your pearls. As most of you know, a pearl is a gemstone that is made by different mollusks such as oysters. But let’s see how they are made. The making of a pearl is not very pretty and is painful to the mollusk. The start of a pearl is a piece of sand, rock, body of a bug or parasite that gets trapped inside the shell. Inside the mollusk is an inner layer of shell that is made of a lustrous material called “nacre,” or mother of pearl. When something gets stuck in its shell, it irritates the oyster, so in defense, the oyster isolates the irritation by gradually coating it with layer after layer of nacre, making the object less dangerous and irritating to its soft tissues. As the oyster keeps adding more layers of this material, the pearl grows bigger and becomes more rounded. It is a slow process that can take up to three or more years for a mature oyster to produce a pearl large enough to become valuable. You have all had these painful irritants in your life which you have had to coat. You have had to take something painful and create a beautiful, priceless pearl. I know that many of you have wondered why I have had to endure cancer and die the death that I did. Even though I may not have an answer to that, I do know this, Yahweh was with me through each painful step of my disease comforting me with His Holy Spirit. Do not cry for me, but, celebrate what has been given to me. Even though I had to endure this painful experience, today I get to collect my gemstone, I get the biggest pearl of my life-I go home to Our Father. Love Granny”
Today my most prized possession, Grannys’ golden box with its thorn and mustard seed sits atop my dresser.
Kathleen Ann Shelton
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