By Traci Clayton: Guest columnist
Editor’s note: The following was written by PNT religion columnist Joan Clayton’s granddaughter Traci Clayton who is an advertising and public relations major at Texas Christian University. Traci’s dad, Tony (Lane) Clayton, sent the PNT a copy, and we’re running an excerpted version in place of Joan’s column this week.
My mawmaw, Joan Clayton, is anything but typical. In fact, my grandmother is one of the most interesting individuals I know. She exhibits a powerful exuberance for life that affects everything she does. Like an irresistible ray of light, she lives an illuminated life, brightens the lives of others and overcomes darkness. Her light is seen in all aspects of her life.
And Joan’s love life is no exception. Her marriage shines as a beacon of hope in a time of a high divorce rate. While some marriages fall apart as soon as the honeymoon bags are unpacked, she and her husband, Emmitt Clayton, will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this summer. Their marriage has stood the test of time.
“We had problems,” Joan said, “but our love was so real and so true and so hard-set that nothing could have separated us.”
The story of how this love came about seems to be taken straight from the silver screen. Joan was 13 years old when Emmitt first noticed her. She was eating ice cream at a drug store, a self-proclaimed “fat girl in glasses.” According to Joan, Emmitt entered with a few of his friends, noticed her, and said to the boys, “See that girl over there? I’m gonna marry her some day.”
Joan labels that as a “self-fulfilling prophecy” that didn’t reach fruition until she was 19 years old. Emmitt had returned from service in World War II only to tell Joan that he was off to Alaska to strike gold. Joan had something else in mind. She asked him to marry her. Emmitt said he thought she’d never ask, and they wed in 1948.
Emmitt is thankful for every day since.
“She’s a Godsend to me. God planned for us to be together,” Emmitt said. “She is a wonderful, beautiful mother, wife and helpmate.”
Joan also thanks God for giving her “the one and only man (she) could ever love” and for another aspect of her life — her writing career.
She said she has published more than 500 newspaper articles and around 75 short stories for anthology books. Her work is published in popular books and magazines such as the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and Happiness magazine. She has also published eight books of her own. Despite her evident talent, Joan remains humble.
“It was the Lord, and if he can use me he can use anybody,” Joan said. “He knows writing for Him is my heart’s desire and He honors that.”
Joan said that even the idea to start writing was from God. She said poems would just come to her, and she would file them. After she had retired from teaching, God gave her direction to put those poems in a book. She published this devotional book in 1994 and started her prolific writing career.
Emmitt is especially supportive of Joan’s writing. He loves that her work moves her readers.
“I’m so proud of how (her writing) touches so many people,” Emmitt said. “People are blessed because of her. I know because they call and tell her so.”
Again, Joan gives all credit to God.
“He’s been so good to me,” she said. “I just have to tell the world about it!”
This faith in God shines through not only her writing but also everything else in her life. She has a deep love for God displayed clearly for all to see. Like the love story between her and Emmitt, the love story between her and God also starts a little surprisingly.
Joan said she grew up in the church but did not really know God. Later in life, she went on a sort of spiritual journey. She knew “there had to be more to it.” This journey led her to “realize that Jesus loved (her) with an amazing, profound love.” She also joined the charismatic movement, which believes in modern-day miracles of the Holy Spirit.
Joan said she has experienced many of these miracles herself. She said one night she told God she wanted everything he had, and instantly she felt an increasing warmth come over her until she became too frightened.
“I just kept thanking the Lord,” Joan said. “Then I heard him say in my heart, ‘I love you too, honey.’”
This faithful spirituality forms her outlook on life. Joan is noticeably joyful. She said one day someone asked her why she was always happy. Joan replied with a simple answer — “Jesus.”
“To be happy you’ve got to believe that all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord,” Joan explained.
Joan certainly believes that and always thinks positively. She warns against the “thought disease” or “stinking thinking” of being negative.
“It’s just as easy to be positive as it is to be in misery,” she said. “Life is delicious! I think everyone should take a bite out of it and be happy!”