The ballet slippers

“David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might . . .”—2 Samuel 6:14; “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”—Psalm 30:11 (NIV)

“The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.”—C.S. Lewis

I started first grade at age 5—but long before that, I had a beautiful dream! When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I simply smiled and said: “A ballerina!” Anyone who knows me well, knows I am mostly awkward and graceless. What in the world made me think about dancing on my toes?!

It was THE SHOES—those beautiful pink satin toe slippers with ribbons tied above the ankles! I wanted those shoes in the worst way! I must have seen them in a book since even black and white TV was in its infancy back then. At any rate, this awkward duckling envisioned becoming a ballerina—a swan even! Seems so silly now, yet as I look back on it many life lessons were learned.

My parents, my grandparents, my aunts—they NEVER discouraged me about this idea—and that truly amazes me! One or the other of them accompanied me to MANY area shoe stores—Rushville, Brookville, Greensburg, Connersville—any place I could think of—but they NEVER had pink ballerina slippers in their stores!

My Aunt Micey lived in Washington, D.C. where she worked for the Navy Department. Eventually, she moved back closer to home and worked for Dr. Sabin in Cincinnati —the one who helped create the oral polio vaccine. She was the first career woman I ever knew! She was one who encouraged my own dreams—and she patiently shopped with me for these elusive pink slippers. On one of these trips to Cincinnati, she took me to the Shillito’s department store. It had several floors of items for sale and fascinating elevators to get to them—but, sadly—no pink ballet shoes! Finally, my aunt spotted some pink terry-cloth house slippers with white bows and VERY THICK foam on the bottom. She said, “You know, Jenny, I wonder if these might be good practice shoes for ballet? They have a great deal of padding and might help you get started until we find those satin slippers.” I thought about it—now this is the aunt who had the most beautiful turquoise linen high heels—which I adored and secretly coveted—and I agreed that it might be worth a try. After all, she was the “Shoe Queen” in my book! I remember wearing the “practice” slippers and doing the tippy-toe motions my heart led me to believe real ballerinas do—and I danced like nobody was watching! I am not sure what happened to those house slippers—but they served a purpose in my life.

Yes, pre-school kids can be stubborn, yet gullible—but it took that stroke of genius on her part to gently guide me away from an impossible dream. I was blessed with life on the farm there. My grandma Neva, a former schoolteacher, loved books, reading, and sharing both with me. I followed her to her garden and helped her cut asparagus in the early spring. I followed my grandpa Walter around the farm and helped shell corn in a very cool manual machine. I had my own little basket to help gather the eggs from the hen house—which I was permitted to do if I was VERY careful! I made exquisite mud pies under their old Catalpa tree—decorating them with dandelions, peonies, and the blooms from that tree. And nobody ever told me that the dreams in my head were not real.

The farm would eventually be sold after my grandpa passed away, and our lives would change tremendously. There were to be many sad days ahead for my family—but the seeds of imagination had been planted already. It turns out my God-given gift was NOT dancing! But the gifts of the Holy Spirit helped me to figure that out and eventually use the writing ideas God provided me.

My reason for sharing this story about my pink satin dance slippers is to remind adults that dreams should not be trampled on and children should not be made to feel less than for their creative ideas. One thing leads to another and then the vision of a life becomes real—perhaps just in a different way—based on God’s guidance and purpose for each of us.