Lessons from a fruit stand

During a stay with my mom, the boys and I decided to take a visit to see my grandmother’s husband, Pat.  They married 15 years ago and found love the second time around after my grandfather’s passing. My grandmother, Charlie, really changed Pat’s world with her southern charm, knack in the kitchen and constant optimism.

Did you know you can heal someone’s soul with fried chicken and German chocolate cake? I didn’t, but it’s true. I watched it happen. Pat’s family was broken and bruised and my grandmother would rally them weekly for Sunday dinners and her secret prayers for reconciliation.

She passed away last year, and the kitchen grew cold and the family stopped coming by. The kitchen is the heart of the home, and this home became quiet and tired without her in it. I believe Pat’s soul grew quiet and tired too without the constant chatter and love of his bride. He crawled into a dark grief hole for a while, and it was a deep one to climb out of. He surfaced again, and we decided it was a good time to visit. He and his sister live on over 100 acres of farmland, so we braved the heat with mom and headed out to Eatonton, GA for a day of fishing, sweat and Dairy Queen.

On the drive, we approached Mom’s favorite fruit stand. She drove this road multiple times weekly as she cared for her dying mother last year. She would always bring fresh peaches for my grandmother and Pat. We stopped and had a look around. The boys had never stopped at a fruit stand and weren’t quite sure what to think, but we assured them we were safe and the fruit was edible.

The owner had lots of wares available other than fruit, including boiled peanuts and statues.  After purchasing a large styro-foam cup of salty boiled peanuts, I found the perfect cement Georgia Bulldog. How cute Ugga would be on my doorstep on Game day! However, he was about $7.00 to steep. After my disappointment over the cement dawg’s price, My eyes lifted and were shocked by what they saw.

Just behind my favorite mascot were sets of cement families, yes, there were life size children made of cement. What on earth would someone do with a cement family? Sit them out to scare trick or treaters? One little girl had her cement hair painted yellow  and was wearing a blue dress. Just behind these clearly caucasian statue-families was an identical cement family except their skin had been painted black- jet black, black as the night sky. I couldn’t believe it, this cement family with caucasian pigtails and facial features, had black paint covering them as if that made them another race. It was offensive and shocking and caused the boys to have many questions, and was something that you would only see driving down a deserted country road in the South.

I was thinking on this visit this morning, and those black cement families came to mind. I thought about how I’ve painted myself, covered myself, thinking I was in disguise, my imperfections and flaws hidden, incognito. Not realizing everyone could still see the real me if they looked hard enough. It was still me, just covered in a smile, or too much makeup, or new clothes or forced laughter. I spent a long time just putting that paint on so that others might assume I was someone else, someone better, someone who had it all together but it was really me, just covered up by the paint.

I am sure God looked down and was shocked, offended even that his daughter, who he had spent time creating, had slathered and covered her true self, trying to appear as something she wasn’t. I am guessing I am not the only one who does this, covers up their true self, because that self is hurt, or torn, or tired. Why do we do this? What are we afraid of?

I remember the day God asked me to take some of that paint off. He asked me to share some of my hurt, my past that I had kept hidden so long. So I stood in front of a large audience and talked about  the 17 years of darkness that I lived in. I had to share those hurt spaces, painful moments that no one knew the depths of. I had to stand before many women without the paint, and just be me. The broken and tired me.

I had to… because he asked me to…because obedience brings blessing…because I love Him that much.

And he asked me to…because he loves me that much…because there was someone in that audience he loved that much.

They needed to hear my story to know they could take their paint off too.

It was terrifying and really freeing to say those words, to say I was a mess but Jesus wasn’t, to say I had crawled in a hole and couldn’t get out, much like Pat after my grandmother died.

Being that vulnerable, that obedient, well, it opened doors for me, for my heart, for more freedom, for the need to wear less paint. Maybe it freed others up too.

I think it’s time some of us took our paint off and showed the real us, the broken and tired us, to someone, someone safe that we trust. Someone who might offer us some love, some grace. Like my grandmother did for Pat and his family with her fried chicken and German chocolate cake. Did you know those can heal souls? She walked into their broken and hurt places and offered what she had and brought healing. Maybe we need to offer what we have to someone who is hurting and broken and covered in paint.

I dream a lot and I’ve had several dreams about kitchens over the last year. Kitchens are the heart of the home and I would say God has been doing some heart work on me, calling me out of hiding, showing me how precious I am to him, asking me to take the paint off and to help others take their paint off too.

What if we all did this: loved others well, loved ourselves well, revealed our true selves and helped others be themselves.

What if we brought healing and love with what we had just like my grandmother, Charlie?

What if we just lived this paint-free life and loved others in a way that let them live paint- free?

It might look like this:

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Colossians 3:10-15

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