Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful

A Grits Love Story

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2:18

It happened just like that. I love grits…a lot.  I know some of you have no idea what grits are and have never tried them.  If you are from the North, I understand. If you are from the South, well, that’s just inexcusable. The problem with grits is that people want to mess with them by adding things like sugar and milk. Listen…you don’t mess with Texas and you don’t mess with grits. When you add those two things to grits it changes their DNA and whatever it becomes it is no longer grits.  It may be the same consistency, but sugar and milk robs grits of their heart and soul.

There are things you can add to grits.  The first three things on the list are salt, pepper and butter.  Grits were meant to be seasoned so don’t think a sprinkle of this, or a dash of that will get the job done.  You need to grab the that salt shaker and get serious and do the same thing with the pepper.  Someone will say that salt is bad for your blood pressure.  Well, some things are worth the sacrifice.  The other things that bring grits to life are bacon, cheese and amazingly, shrimp. I’m telling you…grits are not the breakfast of champions…grits are the champion of breakfast.  If you learn to eat them right…you will never go back and the only question you will ask is, “Why did it take me so long?

I should have asked that question sooner in another season of my life. It was late summer of 1974 and  I was coming out of a relationship that had gone on way too long. It was just time for it to end and it did.  I was in the Air Force and trust me an Air Force base nine miles from town in South Georgia can be a lonely place.  Imagine a bowl of grits without the salt, pepper, and butter and that was me. And then on a Wednesday night I decided to go to a local church.  Now I had done church all of my life, but walking into a strange church, by myself, on a Wednesday night, was not in my comfort zone.  But this bowl of grits needed some seasoning. So, I went hoping I would meet someone who might add some seasoning to my life.  And, just like that, it happened.

That night, I walked in the side door of the church and there was a small group of young ladies standing by the piano.  One, and only one, caught my eye.  Her name was Judy Allen and that night was the beginning of a love story that has now stretched into a 45 year adventure of life and love.  I guess she was a little too young and maybe I was a little too old, but it was a different time and the bottom line…we fell in love.  That Georgia peach stole my heart and has never given it back.  I never thought of it this way, but I guess grits and peaches go together after all.

Through the decades and years, we have journeyed together…sometimes across town and sometimes across the world.  We built a legacy together that includes our three daughters, their husbands, and our grandkids…all eight of them. We first served our country together as an Air Force family and then served our God as a team—side by side in four different churches over 39 years. At each stop, I was the grits, and she was the seasoning.  She was and is a gifted servant in her own right, but she was also the salt, pepper, and butter that made me a better bowl of grits, a better man…a better pastor. I fully understand what God meant when He said in Genesis, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Well, thank you God for that one.

Grits (what I write not the ones you eat) is just one more example of her seasoning me—encouraging me.  She had been nudging me for years to write and I simply wouldn’t listen.  And then COVID came along and on a whim, I wrote a very short story and posted it and almost a year later my fingers are still mashing keys.  What you may not know is that Judy once again was there to season my frail attempts.  She developed the blog and the Facebook page, and she proofs my words then designs the graphics.  She adds flavor to Grits—and our life and our ministry.

So, on purpose and without apology, let me tell her and you, just how much I love her and how grateful I am for the seasonings she has brought to my life.  There are two things I know.  First, I can’t imagine what life would have been if I hadn’t gone to church that night.  See, you oughta go to church!  But second, I can’t imagine what life would have been if this particular someone, by God’s amazing grace, hadn’t walked with me all these years. It seemed she always knew just how much salt, how much pepper and how much butter to add to this ole bowl of grits…and I love her for it.

So, there you go.  It’s a grits love story.  If you’ve tried grits (the ones you eat…not the ones you’re reading) and didn’t like them…you probably just didn’t have them seasoned right.  You might want to give them another try. And if you have someone in your life that, honestly, just feels a little bland, like grits without the good stuff, don’t give up on them.  Go ahead and be the seasoning in their life. You might be amazed, just like I was, how a little salt, a little pepper, and some butter can make a bowl of ground corn taste amazingly good. Oh, and then, don’t forget to also thank God because He’s the One who made it all possible anyway.  I’ve learned, and I am still learning, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Night and Day

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

One man’s way of packing is another woman’s dump, stuff and close.  Judy and I have been married for 44 years, 2 months and 5 days.  In case you are wondering that is 530 months (give or take a few days) and 16,137 sunrises and sunsets.  It has been an incredible journey that has been marked by a few bumps and a whole lot of good times.  You might ask, “So what’s the secret?”  Well, I am sure there are several.  We both are Jesus followers though she is a lot better at it than I am.  We are both committed to our marriage—she would kill me if I even thought of leaving.  And, honesty, she is a really, classy lady. With that being said, I can tell you one reason that didn’t make the list.  We are alike.

Nope, ain’t gonna happen, you gotta be kidding me.”  In fact, we are pretty “unalike” in several ways.  She is definitely more optimistic.  In fact, she is so optimistic that for her it’s not a matter of the glass being half-full or empty—she doesn’t even need a glass.  Me, well, not so much.  I need to analyze and rationalize.  Judy thrives around people.  Put her a room of strangers and she is a like a pinball game going from person to person—sharing, chatting, and laughing.  Me, well, I head to the nearest wall and lean.  If I can find one person to talk with—I’m good.

On the other side of the coin, I am organized.  Go to my office, either at home or work, and you will find a neat and tidy desk.  A place for everything and everything it is place.  Go into Judy’s office and you might have a difficult time finding the desk.  I am generally a pretty focused person.  If there is a task to do, I sit down and get it done.  If the house is on fire, that will have to wait until I am done.  Judy would probably not notice the house was on fire and if she did notice, she would immediately begin visiting with the firemen.

Now you probably need to know that Judy suggested this story.  We are leaving for vacation soon. Can someone say “YAY”? That foray will cause us to have to pack our luggage.  Now given what you know, here’s how it will go.  I will take my suitcase, lay everything out on the bed, carefully fold and sort each item, and then assign them a specific place in the luggage.  I will overpack because you never know what you might need.  When I get done the suitcase will look like a clothing file cabinet—neatly packed.

Judy, on the other hand, has a different technique.  She, too, will place her luggage either on the bed or floor. She too will probably overpack because you never know what you will need, however, that’s where the similarity ends.  She will then proceed to dump her clothes, shoes, etc., in the bag, on the bag, and anywhere near the bag.  Then she will begin to heap and pile the clothes in the hopes that the thing will close when she is done.  It’s a fifty-fifty chance.  She may call in reinforcements (me) if needed but that is always a last resort.

Like I said, in many ways we are not alike.  But, with that said,  that is not a weakness, it is a strength. Where I am weak, she is strong and vice versa.  We have learned (and are still learning) that the power of a team lies in loving, sharing, working together and yes, forgiving.  Oh, and I also have learned the power of two incredibly powerful words, “Yes, dear.”  No, that would be “I’m sorry.” In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 it says, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” You can take that to the bank.

There’s one more thing that is quite interesting. In our 16,137 days of marriage, we have shared 14,018 of those as a team working together in vocational ministry.  I am certain that without Judy, and all the ways we are different, we would not have seen all the amazing things God has done.  It is a story of love, grace, loyalty, and friendship.  Now before you gag yourself and throw up, know that we definitely don’t always get it right.  But there is one thing you can take it to the bank.  The Bible says that we are fearful and wonderfully [and let me add differently] made.  Someone once said if you and your spouse are alike then one of you isn’t necessary.  Hmmm.

So, there you go.  I hope today’s big truth, that it is more than ok to be different, will strengthen your resolve and commitment in your marriage. But I think it works at work, at church, and even with your neighbors.  And when the frustration begins to build, like the next time he or she doesn’t pack the way you do, remember this—hang tight because both of you will get to the same place in the end.  And if it gets really hard—just go and sit with your Dearest Father and rest.  He’ll whisper some things like “let it go—it doesn’t matter how they pack it just matters that you keep traveling together.” And you will say, “Oh yeah…that’s right.”  And He will remind you once again that, it’s ok because…He’s got this.

Posted in Mother's Day

Mother’s Day–The Hard Way

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

“So,” I asked, “what do you want for Mother’s Day?”  I mean, it was a good question and a timely question.  It was a question that I asked too many times the week before “the day.”  It reached a point where anytime I started a sentence with the word “so” she gave me “the look.”

Mother’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries are all a little difficult when it comes to Judy.  “Why” you ask? Well, one she is not a “gifty” person. Now “gifty” is not a word; I made it up.  It means one who needs gifts. I am a “gifty” person.  Second, she’s pretty content.  She’s not really heavy into the stuff thing.  She doesn’t particularly like or need jewelry, candy, or even pe-can pie.  I know, it’s hard to believe!

Well, it was Saturday before “the day.”  No matter how not “gifty” Judy is, I needed to do something.  She deserved it and I didn’t want to go to jail.  So, I decided to try one more time. “So, Judy,” I said, “what are we going to do about this Mother’s Day thing?  It is tomorrow.”  At first I thought I was going to get the look but instead she said, “I know what.”  That worried me because she had a smile on her face.  It was that “you should have quit while you were ahead smile.”  She said, “You can dig up plants for me.”

“Dig up plants?” I muttered but it was too late. The deed was done.  The deal sealed. I agreed and after stalling for a few minutes followed her out to the yard.  She took me to a spot under a large crepe myrtle where some lilirope had taken over.  So this was it.  With a stiff upper lip I attacked those pesky, rooty plants and ripped them from the ground. “Teach you to grow, you, you, plant you” I muttered.  It was a battle but one I eventually won.  I thought I had won the day but I think the muttering under my breath kinda spoiled the deal.

To make up for the muttering we started tackling these killer rose bushes.  They had some dead branches that needed to go.  Now you need to understand these bushes had thorns on their thorns.  Well, before long, blood was shed…and I muttered.  I was pretty sure I was going to have to call the Red Cross for a unit of blood before we were done.  I thought, “Surely this will win the prize.  Game, set, match.”  Nope, that stinking muttering under my breath about shedding blood spoiled things again.  I think I ended up tired, bleeding and empty handed.  I never should have muttered.  Judy calls it “losing the blessing.” I call it a real dumb move.

So, I was sitting on the patio after the medics had bandaged my arm and gave me CPR (smile) and then it occurred to me.  You know, this is what we do with God.  We tell Him how much we love Him.  We offer to do anything for Him. “Just speak the Word, Lord, and I will go and I will do.” So He speaks and then we stammer and then we mutter and then we lose the blessing. “Lord, what would you have me do?” we say. He mentions hard things like forgiving, loving, serving, giving, sharing.  You know, all those “ing” ending words that feel a whole bunch like digging plants.

Well, if I would have pressed pause on the “mutter button” I would have remembered just how much Judy does for me.  I would have remembered how much I really do love her. I would have remembered that while I don’t like digging plants I sure like seeing her smile.  It’s the same with God. If you just hit the pause button you would remember all that God has done for us and does for us every single day.  If you know Him, you gotta love Him. How could we not? How.could.we.not?

You see, God loves you to the moon and back.  Two scriptures put a bow on the package.  John 3:16 says God loved us enough to give His Son to a Roman cross.  But wait, Romans 5:8 tells us that God showed His love by sending Jesus die on that cross without us having to get it together  He just said “hey, come to Me…let’s get together.”  How about that? Well, Judy and I ended up going on a great hike later in the day and had a really great time.  We were amazed at His handiwork and I was amazed at how quickly she could forgive. I hope the next time she needs some plants dug, I’ll just hit pause on the “mutter button” and gladly start digging.  Not because I love digging plants, not because I have too but because I love the one I’m digging for.  And when we ask God what we can do for Him, whatever it is or whoever it involves let’s just get our shovels and get busy.  Afterwards, we can take a break and rest in Him.  He’s got this.