Grace Retained

Grace Retained

About two months ago, the dentist fitted Brown Sugar with an “appliance” to fix her underbite. She struggled with it in the beginning. The first night, she lost it somewhere in her room while she was asleep, and she came downstairs in tears, fearing Mama’s wrath. (No worries, we found it under the pillows and toys.) She had to get used to wearing it practically 24/7 and storing it in her case during meals. We all enjoyed hearing the way it affected her speech, and we’d ask her to repeat certain words—it just added to her appeal, if not ours. But Brown Sugar was a champ—diligent, mature, faithful, and good-humored. She quickly adjusted to life with it (including our teasing). She brushed her teeth and the appliance after each time she ate. She dutifully wrapped it in a napkin when she wasn’t wearing it (because she couldn’t always keep up with the case). She soon got used to the pressure on her tooth, the dental checkups, and measuring her progress. We anticipated the day when the dentist would say she could put it away for good. Well, that wonderful day arrived at last. Brown Sugar’s hard work and patience made her precious, gap-toothed smile even more precious. The problem now? She’s struggling to get used to life without it! “My teeth feel weird,” she commented after a few minutes of freedom. Later she pointed to her teeth and worried, “They’re hitting each other. Are they moving back?” We’ve had to reassure her that all is well, that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. Once again, she’ll have to get used to life without the appliance....
July 9, 2017

July 9, 2017

During Sunday school, we talked about “serving.” When we visualize that concept, we see Jesus turning water into wine, healing the sick, encouraging the meek and poor in spirit on the Sermon on the Mount, washing the disciples’ feet, and ultimately giving His life for ours. But as we chopped potatoes and whisked eggs, Hubby helped the little people grasp servanthood as more than a spiritual ideal. It’s what we do day-to-day; it’s our attitude regarding our work and our calling; it’s a reflection of our relationship with God and a result of our relationships with others. In serving we should…  “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:12) Relationships was on the menu in church as well. First Corinthians 10:32, 33 says, Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Sometimes, that passage feels like another lofty ideal. But it’s imperative we live it out in real, practical ways in our service to God and man. That scripture doesn’t mean I should lie about my beliefs and experiences to appease others or ignore my core values to seem chill to my little people. It means I need to live true to my faith—choosing love, not legalism, and “putting relationships over rules,” as Pastor Livingston taught. And I need to do that as a parent, a friend, a child, a believer, and a servant. Yes, we’re breaking all kinds of rules over...
Declaration of Dependence

Declaration of Dependence

This morning, TD announced, “I’m going to dress myself!” Armed with a few key reminders (“Tag in back,” etc.), he did just that, lickety split. Now, this shouldn’t be a big deal. By this age, the other little people were sewing their own clothes, not just putting them on—okay, not really, but close. They all had at least one younger sibling to share their spotlight; they were little helpers and leaders—“knee babies” as Grandma called them, who had to move out of the way. But TD is everybody’s baby, and he works the roomful of eight mamas and papas willing and able to cater to his every whim. My constant prayer is that we don’t let our precious fruit spoil on the vine, but I’m starting to notice some overripe spots, right behind the ears he doesn’t wash himself. The blessing and the curse? He’s the last. The last I breastfed. The last to get a first tooth. The last first steps we witnessed. The last to learn to read. We all cling—and yes, I more than most—because we won’t get these “firsts” again. We delay their arrival and departure as much as possible, even to our own detriment. Sure, it makes more work, but it also keeps him…well, a baby. So, call us Dr. and Mrs. Frankenstein. Meet our cute little monster. But as I watched TD struggle to put his right foot through the right leg of his shorts, I took heart: he’s still my baby; he still needs me. And that won’t ever change, if my own Mama is any example. Even with a husband and my...
July 3, 2017

July 3, 2017

  Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. (Isaiah 55:2) We’ve been ripping and running the past few weeks, and we’ve skipped a lot of things. Sadly, eating hasn’t been one of them. No matter how far we roamed, our stomachs insisted on going with us. Cooking and kitchen cleanup on vacation? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Eating out every meal? Ain’t nobody got money for that either. Ouch…but oh, those Duck Donuts were good. Our comings and goings also impacted our worship. We’ve done devotions standing up, tuned into sermons in the car, abbreviated Sunday school, missed Bible study, and sprinkled prayers over folks as they’ve run out the door. We didn’t dive as deeply as I like, but we kept our toes in the water. I suppose that’s the greatest blessing in this technological age that drives me crazy with all the accessibility it creates: Have Jesus, will travel. Yesterday felt like a “Throwback Sunday.” It was the first in a bit that we sat down and ate and worshipped together, even though it was a missing man formation. And really, I can’t remember when I last had fried bologna with my grits. Talk about memories of sitting around mama’s table–memories that were tastier than than the crab cakes, asparagus, and saffron jasmine rice I enjoyed with Hubby over the weekend. No, that bologna wasn’t the fanciest or the healthiest or the prettiest on camera, but it did my heart good. The sermon also gave my heart a...
Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising

With all the filters folks use on their photos these days, you really can’t believe everything you see. But no matter how you or I look at it, I’m a vertically challenged black woman. All I have to do is ask myself: “Can I reach the ketchup on the top shelf?” The resounding “No” isn’t good or bad. It just is. But if I think less of myself because I can pick only low-hanging fruit, that’s something else altogether. That thought involves judgement, and experts would say it reflects a poor body image. Body image. That phrase rears its ugly, self-centered head in our house quite often. For instance, once Maven wouldn’t wear a sleeveless outfit because her arms are too toned. Too toned, my ten-year-old gymnast and track star. Songbird won’t leave the house without earrings, as if they’re the feather that keeps her aloft. I’ve been to the grocery store in pjs, but I’d never go without my lip gloss. Go figure. Even our boys spend precious time picking out their curls or working on their six-pack, and Hubby wonders whether growing a beard makes him look debonair or elderly. The world says this is all part of having a healthy self-image, but for believers, a “healthy self-image” is an oxymoron, ranking up there with “self-empowerment” and “self-seeking.” These words point you in the wrong direction, putting the focus on the man in the mirror rather than the Man on the cross. But is it really that big a deal? Yes! A thing’s image isn’t its essence. It’s not real. Appearance isn’t everything. It’s not even the real thing....
June 4, 2017

June 4, 2017

Chocolate chips. Blueberries. And now, honey butter, the latest addition to our waffle recipe. This morning we learned if you just stir in a smidge of honey to softened or melted butter and smear it across your hot waffle, you’ll be in…okay, not heaven, but transported to a comfy seat at our table, right beside a very satisfied Maven. While the batter sizzled we talked about Proverbs 4, focusing on verse 7: “Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” That’s an important reminder to us, in our scramble for college degrees, paychecks, publishing contracts, healthy food, friends, peace, exercise routines, sleep, recognition, or even just a Krispy Kreme doughnut to call my own. In all our getting, get understanding. Get Jesus. Jesus—one of the four “main characters” at the feeding of the five thousand. The others were the disciples, the crowd, and the boy with “five barley loaves and two small fish.” (John 6:9) Today, in his message at Central Church of God, Dr. Paul Conn helped us picture ourselves there in this Bible story by asking, “Who are you?” Do you overstep into your Father’s role, taking responsibility for sowing the seed, watering the seed, growing the seed, and reaping the final harvest? Are you one of the crowd, hungry for a Word, in need of a healing, searching for a miracle or just a crust of bread? Perhaps you’re an obedient disciple, anxious to protect your King, ready to obey, grateful to sit at His feet and spread His message. Or you might be “the lad,” holding something precious and willingly giving it up, seeing it multiplied and...