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When I was 18 months old, I had a fall that resulted in my two front baby teeth being knocked out. My parents were told my permanent teeth would be fine, but they weren’t. They came in crooked and deformed. The roots had been damaged. They had to be pulled. I was probably the only child in my elementary school who had dentures.
Additionally, I was very nearsighted. I started wearing glasses before I started to school. I was the only child in my class who wore glasses.
My parents were plenteous in Love, but short on money. I never wanted for anything, but I was aware that my parents had to watch every penny. I had clean, nicely pressed clothes, but many of them were handed down to me from family or friends. It was a little embarrassing when an older friend would say in front of others, “Hey, you’re wearing my dress!”
I was shy, sensing I was different from others in my class. However, that did not stop me from dreaming of a time when I would be the object of admiration, not teasing or whispered jeers.
I thought my time to shine might have come the day the teacher very excitedly told us about a new contest the school was having. It was a fund raiser the PTA had orchestrated.
Each class would have a king and queen. Then a king and queen would be selected from the pool of candidates to become king and queen of the whole school. And the best part was that the king and queen would not be selected based on their looks.
My ugly duckling heart soared. Each of us was given a big jar. All we had to do was collect money and fill the jars. The girl and boy who collected the most money would be the queen and king.
I ran home that day, bursting with excitement. I told my parents I was going to be the queen of my class and maybe of the whole school! My mother looked very sad. My father looked frankly horrified. They looked at me, then at each other, and back at me again.
Finally my mother spoke.
“Carolyn, where were you planning to get the money?”
I hadn’t exactly figured that part out yet.
“I guess, I’d get some from you, and maybe some from my aunt. And I can take my jar to church.”
My father then spoke. “So you are planning to beg for money.”
Even though I was in the second grade, I knew how to make a case.
“It’s not begging, Daddy. I’m just asking for donations.”
My mother spoke again.
“Carolyn, you do know you are beautiful, don’t you? You don’t need to be a queen. Knowing you are beautiful comes from the inside of you, not the outside.”
I began to cry. My dream was being destroyed. My parents did not understand. How could I ever be sure I was pretty if no one but my parents told me so?
The silence that followed was only broken by my sobs. Finally my father said firmly, “You can put that jar away because you are not going out to beg. We’ll put a little something in it, but that’s all.”
And then he turned to my mother and said, “Pearl, call the teacher and see what this is all about.”
I feel sure my parents protested the school’s fund raising tactics. I spent a very gloomy couple of weeks, as my jar remained empty and the other kids showed off their jars that were filling up with coins.
The night before everyone was to turn in their jars, my mother came into my room. She had her coin purse. She dumped everything she had into my jar. Even though she had given all she had to give, the coins in the jar only seemed to emphasize how much was not in the jar.
I think I managed a weak thank you, but she knew my heart was broken.
“Carolyn, there will be many times in your life when people will try to get you to give them something to tell you that you are pretty, smart, or part of their group.
“If you have to pay them to get it, it’s not worth it and it’s not real.
“Your heart is like this jar. It deserves to be full, but you must be very careful about who you ask to fill it.
“God is the only One Who can really fill your heart. When He tells you are beautiful, you can believe Him. And you won’t have to pay Him to say it.”
I tried to understand, but I could only see that big jar and how little was in it. If I had had a choice, I would have skipped school the next day.
Everyone came in, showing off their full or nearly full jar. And then there was mine. I had one friend, in similar economic state to me. Her jar was about half full. Her parents had not approved her begging either, but she came from a large extended family who had contributed to the cause.
She looked at my jar. Without saying anything negative, she simply reached into her jar and said, “Here. Let me give you some more.”
I could not explain it then, but looking back now, I can see that my heart began to fill at that moment. Neither of us became queen that day, but we each felt beautiful in our own way. She was rich, because she had enough to give and was willing to share it. I was rich because she counted me worthy to receive from her.
And I was blessed by two parents who refused to let me try to buy love and affirmation. They taught me it comes from the inside and God keeps filling as long as we share with others.
There have been many times in life when I was offered love and acceptance with a price tag. Unfortunately sometimes I was weak and I succumbed. I paid. I regretted it. I repented. I started again.
Empty jars remind me, even now, to guard my heart. It’s not for sale. It’s a Precious Gift from God and He will fill it up!
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
You are chosen.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
God chose you.
You are beautiful.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”