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Copyright © 2004 by Heather Whitestone McCallum and Angela Elwell Hunt
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Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Whitestone-McCallum, Heather. Heavenly crowns: striving for a godly life in the midst of daily struggles / Heather Whitestone McCallum and Angela Hunt. P. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-310-24627-X 1. Christian women - Religious life. 2. Crowns - Religious aspects - Christianity. 3. Whitestone-McCallum, Heather. I. Hunt, Angela Elwell, 1957-II. Title. BV4527.W49 2004 248.8'43 - dc22 2003020237
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Chapter 1: An Unexpected Crown
I know a secret about you - something you may not have admitted even to yourself.
I know you'd like to wear a crown.
At one time or another, most of us would like to live out the Cinderella story. Often we see ourselves as the ugly duckling and pray for the day when we can become a royal swan.
You may know that I lost my hearing at the age of eighteen months. The powerful antibiotics that saved my life when I experienced a high fever also took my hearing. To take my mind off the endless rounds of therapy and training I had to endure, I dreamed of being a princess and a ballerina. I suppose every girl entertains such fantasies at some point because our parents read to us about princesses in fairy tales and fables and nursery rhymes. In such stories, the princess is always beautiful. She leads a life of luxury. Who wouldn't want that kind of life?
From that little deaf girl who dreamed of being a princess ballerina, I grew into a young woman who set her sights on the most glittery tiara I had ever seen. Gathering my courage, I told my friends and family that I wanted to compete for the Miss America title, the most coveted crown in America.
Can you imagine their reaction? I was a deaf woman. I had never been a homecoming queen nor had I ever won any kind of pageant. My deafness had sheltered me from much of the world, and I had few hearing friends. Nothing in my personal history suggested that I would succeed. But I wanted to wear a crown more than anything. So I persevered.
The pageant itself was a nerve-wracking experience for all the contestants, but I was especially tense because I had no way of catching all the sounds around me. On that final night when I stood on the stage in Atlantic City with the other four finalists, I felt as if I were sitting on the top of a roller coaster, about to plunge to the earth. I had performed my ballet to the best of my ability, but who can predict the mind of a judge?
I had been nervous when I first met Regis Philbin, the emcee, a few days before. He was talking too fast for me to read his lips. Now I was wearing my hearing aid and trying to listen, but the noise and confusion swallowed up most of the announcements.
Regis announced that fourth runner-up was Tiffany Storm, Miss Indiana; third runner-up was Andrea Krahn, Miss Georgia; and second runner-up was Jennifer Makris, Miss New Jersey.
Miss Virginia, Cullen Johnson, stood beside me. Regis wasn't facing me, so I couldn't read his lips. I heard a buzzing and saw a wave of applause in the audience. I heard him say, "Miss Virginia," but I missed the other words. I didn't know if I had won or not. I kept thinking, If Miss Virginia cries, she won, but when I turned to look at her, Cullen was pointing at me.
Somehow I walked over to Kimberly Aiken, and she pinned the crown to my head. Someone handed me the Waterford Crystal scepter. I didn't realize I was holding it until I found it in my hand backstage. Pageant officials would have fainted if I had dropped it! From the corner of my eye I saw Kathie Lee Gifford applauding, tears in her eyes. Some automatic part of my consciousness propelled me toward the crowd. Turn. Wave. Walk to the end of the runway. Turn again. Walk back to Kimberly.
I pulled myself together as I moved down the runway and saw those lifted hands signing "I love you." I stood for a moment at the far end, overwhelmed by the cheering audience, and in my heart I cried out to God: I really need you, Lord. You'd better come with me because I have no idea how I'm going to manage this . . .
God did abide with me. On that night he gave me a physical crown. He stayed by my side through that stressful year - 1995 - and he has been with me ever since. My Lord Jesus has been my guide and comfort as I have married, given birth to two sons, and had a cochlear implant that dramatically improved my hearing.
He has given me so much, but I'm not done with earnestly desiring more - and now I want God's crowns more than anything in the world!
I hope you will come with me through these next pages as we explore the crowns prepared for those who believe in Christ. We will learn that the path to an incorruptible crown does not always lead us through wealth and fame and beauty, but often through the valley of the shadow. Just like Jesus, whose only earthly crown was made of thorns, we can travel from temptation to life, from the agony of despair to glorious victory.
One day we will stand before Jesus to receive crowns and rewards, but when the trials of everyday life crowd in - children, taxes, illness, work, finances, housing, wars and rumors of wars - it can be hard to take comfort in the joy to come when the frustration of the present is so overwhelming.
I am so happy to know that even these present days, dark though they may often be, are not without blessings. One day we will wear heavenly crowns, but Jesus has not left us without crowns in the present. These crowns are not literal, but figurative - unless, of course, you want to pick up a tiara on eBay to remind yourself that you are blessed to be a daughter of the King! Not a bad idea, is it?
Whether we realize it or not, God gives us a crown every day - the gift of living through Jesus Christ. God allows us to wake up every morning and breathe because he wants us to have an opportunity to be part of his beautiful family on earth and in heaven. He has given us miraculous bodies as treasures to glorify him. In return, God expects us to take good care of our bodies and our hearts, because daily he crowns us with his love and wants us to share his love with others.
Come with me as we further explore the wonderful crowns - earthly and heavenly - from Christ's infinite supply.