Each lustrous sphere reminded her of a glowing mini-moon lying against the dark-blue velvet. Julia caught the necklace up from its box and held it carefully in her hand, fingering each iridescent pearl in turn as if praying a rosary. She counted them--24 in all, to her every one truly a priceless jewel. In between the individual larger orbs were several smaller, irregularly-shaped Baroque pearls, exquisite in their own right. She lifted the short strand up to the sunlight shining through the window and finally brought it to her lips and lightly kissed it.
She and Paul had designed the necklace together, and she had received the completed string on their tenth anniversary fourteen years ago. It's been difficult making the decision to give it up. It represents so many memories--both good and bad.
At that moment, Paul walked into the bedroom, and their eyes met.
"Julia, let me." He gently took the necklace and then stood directly behind as he slid it around her neck to fasten the clasp. "Wait here while I get my camera. I want to take one more picture of you wearing it tonight." Kissing the nape of her neck, he left the room.
Julia smoothed a tiny wrinkle from her long, shimmery, silvery-blue formal and glanced at her reflection in their full-length mirror. The pearls rested against her throat in luminous beauty, and she reached up to touch them again. Pain, perseverance, pleasure--all were symbolized there.
Paul returned, and she obediently posed for a couple photos with a tender smile on her lips and in her lovely eyes. As he set the camera down on his dresser, he reached for Julia, taking care not to crush her dress.
"I remember giving you the two initial pearls on our second anniversary in that little mother-of-pearl case. It was an evening to celebrate."
Pulling away a bit, Julia looked him in the face. "Those first twelve months of marriage were pretty rocky, and I'm glad we had brains enough to realize we needed help. And it was such a God-send that your parents were willing to pay for eight sessions with a marriage counselor for us."
They both were silent for a brief space as they thought back to that time when small annoyances piled on top of each other to build a fair-sized mountain of resentment--things like Paul leaving shaving hairs all over the bathroom sink, forgetting to rinse his dishes after eating, and throwing his dirty clothes on the floor instead of in the hamper or Julia being habitually late for everything and not keeping her checkbook up-to-date. Nagging and bickering began to tear holes in the fabric of their relationship, and marital harmony began slowly unraveling at the seams.
Their counselor helped them come up with "rules of engagement" when facing conflicts and guided them in creating goals and the strategies to reach them. He advised them to deal with one issue at a time until they had come to a successful resolution.
Paul finally spoke again. "That counselor helped us see that we could be like the oyster, turning these little irritants into pearls by repeatedly covering them with layers of patience and love. Our first triumph was when we were able to go several months with me keeping my clothes either hung up or put in the laundry hamper and you getting ready to leave for church on time each week."
Julia nodded. "I can't believe the difference those two small things made in the atmosphere of our home! I'm so glad we decided to chose two or three 'pet peeves' to tackle yearly, with the incentive being to add another couple pearls to our collection each anniversary."
Caressing her cheek, Paul grinned. "We not only created a beautiful necklace, but more importantly, a beautiful marriage." He kissed her again, this time on the mouth. "If you're ready to go, I'll get the car out while you turn off the lights and lock up."
As Julia went about this task, her mind filled with thoughts of the next twenty-four hours. This evening was their daughter Rayna's rehearsal dinner and dance, and the next afternoon was the long-anticipated ceremony. Tomorrow was also when they would pass the necklace, with its written history, on to Rayna as a wedding gift.
Praise bubbled up in her heart as she walked out the front door. Thank you, Lord, for teaching the oysters--and us--how to transform irritations into pearls!
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