When I was a kid , Mama used to tell me I was an angel with a dirty face.  And when someone I never met asked her, "Is this your little angel?" she would reply, "Yes, when she's asleep and not having bad dreams."  I wonder if that's why , when I was four years old, she gave me a nickel every day to take a nap! All I knew was that a nickel would buy candy and bubble gum at the corner grocery store. And before naptime was over and Mama missed me, I could be out the window, down the block, and back in bed. I got away with it - for awhile. Then one fateful day Mama made a trip of her own to Mr. Mosely's store."Why Miss Cora, how are you today?" he asked Mama. "I see that cute little Suzie 'most every day at about two thirty, when she comes in to buy candy!"  The next day on my way back home from the store, whom did I see in the distance, waiting for me in front of the house?  Mama.
And what was in her hand? A long freshly picked peach tree switch.
Needless to say, my days of sneaking out the window to buy candy were over. It didn't matter that I told Mama I was saving some of my candy for friends or that I just couldn't sleep in the afternoons. Although the chances of running into danger in those days were minimal compared to the crime rates today, Mama knew it was still dangerous for a four-year-old to cross a busy street by herself.

Even then, I think angels must have been watching over me. For my own protection, they probably arranged for me to get caught- knowing that my four-year-old cherubic face and blonde curls were no guarantee that I would stay out of mischief. And even though I'm now a grown forty-something woman, I must confess there's still a lot of that four-year-old candy-store thrill seeker in me. Any guardian angel of mine must wear tennis shoes, because I surely keep whoever is watching over me on his toes.

It has been said that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but rather, spiritual beings having a human experience. There's a lot of truth in that statement!  Could it be that in our quest for extraordinary spiritual experiences, we often overlook the divine in the ordinary- the touches of heaven right here on earth. In truth, God's most priceless heavenly gifts are often delivered through the most common of eartly vessels- through ordinary hands and feet, hearts and voices.Most of us have encountered a celestial angel face to face. Yes, we all have crossed paths at one time or another with an earth angel who forever changed or sweetened our lives.

Long ago I gave up my vain childhood ambitions of becoming famous. Any dreams I might have dreamed, driven by the false belief that only the famous have the power in this life to make a difference, have long since been replaced by one solid and sacred truth: God has empowered each of us with a special, life changing gift. It's called encouragement.

As I child I learned the value of encouragement from my mother. I'll never forget our Saturday downtown shopping trips, when Mama would hold my hand and remind me to smile at the people we encountered along the sidewalk, regardless of their station in life.  She made this time like a game and challenged me to see who would return my smile.  She also explained, "A simple smile is like sunshine on a rainy day- sunshine someone might need today." A few decades later, those words still motivate my heart. I believe in angels- the heavenly messengers God puts in charge over us.  But I also believe we have a calling to be earth angels to one another.

As I've tried to live out the values my mother taught me, I can't say that I've earned my angel wings. But I have beamed with joy at the smiles, the laughter, and the sweet tears I've seen when offering a gesture of encouragement to someone in need. The feeling is heavenly!  And that to me is the true reward.

So, if I can lay any claim to fame, gifting, or passion in this life, I want to humbly claim the gift
of encouragement, for it is God's power and not my own that is released when I seek to encourage others. Amazing, isn't it? To think that God's awesome, supernatural power can be housed and released through eartly vessels like you and me!  And that through that release, others might be set free and encouraged- or at the very least, catch a glimpse of His love! But then I should not be surprised.  After all, more than a few times God has poured His immeasurable love and tender mercy into my own heart through the encouragement of an earth angel.

These earthly angels have entered my life in the most unlikely places at the most extraordinary moments. And although a real halo may not rest of their heads, they are angels just the same- earth angels. Like real angels on assignment, they've brought me encouragement and hope when I needed it most.

Ever since Mama taught me about smiles, I've realized that throughout life's journey encouragement is a key that unlocks doors- doors of hopelessness, fear, rejection, grief, illness, and unfulfilled dreams.  Encouragement allows our hearts to soar on wings of hope, beyond the doors of despair and into a realm of bright promise.

The stories in the pages of this book are not about famous people.  They are not about great winged beings in celestial array. They are true stories about ordinary people like you and me. Some are personal accounts of earth angels who have graced my life or moments when I've been given the privilege of being an earth angel to someone else. Others are from people who have told me their stories- stories that left angel footprints upon my heart and inspired me so much that I had to share them.

Earth Angels is my offering of encouragement to you.
Earth Angels   ~Susan Duke

Earning My Wings