Every morning when I wake up, I reach into my imaginary jewelry box and respectfully pick up a lovely pearl necklace. No one else can see it but me. As a writer, there are days I spend in my pajamas at my desk, but I always wear my pearls. This special necklace is composed of the priceless pearls of wisdom that women have given me throughout my life. I love them and cherish what they stand for. They influence me in everything I say, do and endure.

The formation of a natural pearl begins when a foreign substance slips into the oyster between the mantle and the shell, which irritate­s the mantle. It's kind of like the oyster getting a splinter. My pearls were formed the same way.

The splinters in our lives may include: loss of someone we love, loss of a job, addictions, depression, ill-health or disease, broken marriage, misbehaving children or any one or more of thousands of other potential impediments.

We could just throw in the towel and say, "All is lost! I can't go on! I'm sick of this! This always happens to me! God hates me!" Or, we, like so many women we respect, can learn from the oyster.

The oyster's natural reaction is to cover up that irritant with something strong and beautiful. The man­tle covers the irritant with layers of the same nacre substance that is used to create the shell. This eventually forms a pearl. We can, likewise, wrap our loving hearts around troubles and turn them into something strong and beautiful.

We, as women, look with admiration at women with pearls. We go to church and learn about Esther and Ruth and Rebekah and learn about the pearls of heroism and obedience. We hear about some woman who adopted 30 kids or someone brings us a casserole when our kids are sick and we learn about the pearl of service. We read about women with degrees who have acquired pearls of intelligence. We pass by a soup kitchen or shelter and see the pearls of compassion and charity.

Here are some truths about pearls:

Pearls are outwardly strong and beautiful, but began with pain

Most of the women who have mothered me are strong and beautiful, but often have undisclosed heartache. What they teach me is to take my trials and use them to re-create myself to be likewise.

Pearls are meant to be worn, not locked away in a case

The women who have mothered me used the talents they were given. They shared them and taught them and used them for the good of those they love.

When you wear pearls, the oils from your body keep them beautiful and white and lustrous

When I receive these precious gifts from the women who mother me, I add a little bit of me to them so that I may pass that along to the ones I mother. By doing that, I keep them bright and lovely and teach others to do the same.

We shouldn't compare our pearls to anyone else's

Sometimes I look at other women's pearls and compare them to my own. Maybe mine aren't as big, as perfectly shaped or as white. My pearls of wisdom seem inadequate when seen alongside theirs. The truth is you don't know how big the irritant or pain was that their pearl was born from.

Just as the mothers in my life have shared their pearls, I need to share mine

There are generations of girls and women out there that can greatly benefit and learn from my pearls. The more I share them, the more beautiful and bright they become and the less I remember the pain that began them.

So, don your pearl necklace each morning. Remember and honor the lessons, wisdom and strength they give you. Each pearl is priceless. Strung together they represent the virtues that will guide you through your life. Ponder and study them, and be a better woman for wearing them. And never be afraid to pass a few pearls along to someone in need.

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