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October 2018

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A lesson I learned from a seashell

The wave crashed up washing black sand and frothy sea foam onto my bare feet and with it came a little white shell. I bent down and picked  it up. Inspecting it carefully, I turned it around and around and then tried to return it into the ocean where it belonged. Rather than throwing it back I found myself whispering ‘just one more’ and guiltily stuffing it into my pockets.

I laughed aloud at myself. Every. Single. Time. I saw a shell or a sparkly bit of sea-glass I felt compelled to pick it up. IT’s like I was remembering my childhood and hadn’t yet grown out of the habit of trying to keep pretty things. In fact my own collection of seashells which sat neglected on the countertop at home, was bigger than both my other sea collecting daughters pile. This  obsession was becoming a problem and I’d have to stop soon!

My kids who were ahead me on our walk came running back with their hands full of large dirty and broken seashells that they had found at a burnt out fire-pit. They were the huge snail shells that the locals would catch when the tide was out and roast over the fire for dinner. I remembered clearly not too many nights ago when Eric and I had heard noises outside and gone with our flashlights and machetes to investigate.

We found a group of grown men squatted around a fire, laughing and joking. Eric and I were so entranced by their meal and methods had ended up staying and swapping stories until late into the night. When their rice was finally cooked in the heavy pot they had positioned overtop the fire, more men startled us both by seemingly appearing out of nowhere and throwing down their evenings haul. They had been out night diving and they had collected  one small fish and 5 large snails. This would make the perfect meal they told us with a grin.

We sat for hours visiting and watching as they taught us all the best ways to prepare snails and fish and rice. And then sometime after 10pm when their meal was finally cooked they divided it all up equally amongst themselves and dug in with their hands. Juicy snail water dripping off their fingers and contented smiles on their messy faces they offered us some of the food, but we declined.

My mind jolted back to the present and I looked at the shells in the kids hands. They were ugly, brown, and burnt from the fire. But as I turned one around I saw a hint of mother of pearl. I Remembered back to my old childhood days on the islands when I would bring shells to my father and as if by some kind of voodoo he would transform them into something so breathtaking I was sure it had been made by magic or mermaids. There was mother of pearl in these shells, I was sure of it.

I excitedly told the kids that we were going to do a science experiment. I had seen a bottle of Muriatic acid in the old shipping container out back and was sure it would do the trick.  They had no idea what I was planning but I bossed them around telling them to get bowls and gloves and glasses and shells and water. We set everything out on the table and filled up the first bowl with the strong acid. Careful not to splash we gently set the dirty shells into the clear liquid. Immediately it started to bubble attacking the impurities and eating away the calcium coating.  Only minutes passed before their hidden treasure started to show itself.   Layers of Calcium Carbonate which had taken years to create, quickly dissolved and in it’s place was an iridescent shimmery shell that looked incredibly more beautiful and valuable than anything the children had ever seen.  They were mesmerised by the transformation and began asking so many questions. Where had it come from? Why was it covered up? How did I know it was there?

I was having a proud mamma moment at having successfully impressed my kids as well as nephews when I realized that God had his own message He was trying to tell me.

I excitedly told the kids that we were going to do a science experiment. I had seen a bottle of Muriatic acid in the old shipping container out back and hoped it would do the trick.  They had no idea what I was planning but I bossed them around telling them to get bowls and gloves and glasses and shells and water. We set everything out on the table and filled up the first bowl with the strong acid. Careful not to splash we gently set the dirty shells into the clear liquid. Immediately it started to bubble attacking the impurities and eating away the calcium coating.  Only minutes passed before their hidden treasure started to show itself.   Layers of Calcium Carbonate which had taken years to create, quickly dissolved and in it’s place was an iridescent shimmery shell that looked incredibly more beautiful and valuable than anything the children had ever seen.  They were mesmerised by the transformation and began asking so many questions. Where had it come from? Why was it covered up? How did I know it was there?

I was having a proud mamma moment at having successfully impressed my kids as well as nephews when I realized that God had his own message He was trying to tell me.

I grabbed my scriptures and started flipping the pages. I remembered reading about this somewhere. The book fell open to Joshua 3: 5

And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you. 

I read another scripture:

The Savior said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. “Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;“Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The mother of pearl had always been inside that shell. It took a process that I am sure would have been painful to that shell if it had feelings to feel. But it was worth it! It’s light was shining. I want to be like that shell, broken and covered in sin and sorrow but humble enough to turn my life over to He who can heal. He who can make whole. He who can erase my sins and make me new again, even Jesus Christ.