Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dress Code

By the time I was nine years old I had done it all—traveled by sea, air, car, train, and bus.  I had been on the radio and danced and performed acrobatic routines on the stage.  I had lived in three states—California, Washington, and Alaska.  But now the greatest challenge to my life would be to live in the South!  I had no preconceived notions about the South but shortly after we had arrived I knew there was something strange going on.  Girls were expected to wear dresses!
            One Sunday morning I appeared downstairs ready for church dressed in my favorite jeans and sweater.  “Are you sure you want to wear that to church?”  My mom asked.
            “Yes, I’m absolutely sure,”
            “Well, okay then.”(Natural consequences would work in this case.)
              My family arrived a bit late for Sunday school and slipped into the back pew of the sanctuary for the opening exercises.  Soon it was time for our individual classes.  The boys and girls went to separate classes and the adults went to their class.
              When I joined the circle of girls my age I stared at them and tried not to giggle.  They all wore a-line dresses with shiny glitter or velvet trim, clunky sandals, and nylons, like they were dressed for a wedding, or something.   I felt very uncomfortable and self-conscious.  I bet they LIKE to wear dresses, I thought as I glared at them.  I must be the only girl who likes to wear pants.  Even my sister liked dresses.
            Mrs. Smith began the lesson.  “The scripture for today is Philippians 2:14 — “Do everything without complaining or arguing.  What does this mean?” she asked.
            I thought about how I had complained since the move.  I picked at my cuticles so I could keep my head down and avoid eye contact with anyone.
            “I think it means I should feed my pet goat and not complain when he butts me in the rear when I turn my back,” said a girl named Sandy.  Everyone chuckled including the teacher.
            Kimberly said, “I think it has something to do with getting along with other Christians.”
            “Those are good answers,” said the teacher.  “It also means if we complain about changes and hardships in our lives we are complaining about God’s will for us.” 
“You mean we shouldn’t complain about where we live or our families?” said Amy.
“That’s a wonderful way to put it,” said Mrs. Smith.  “And it’s hard to do, isn’t it?”  All the girls nodded in agreement.  Mrs. Smith continued, “I catch myself complaining and being impatient when my children don’t take care of their clothes.  Then I remember God is patient with me when I don’t do what is good.”
            I didn’t say anything because I realized I was complaining about EVERYTHING. I thought about Philippians 2:14 and the teacher’s words.  Did they apply to all the changes in my life I complained about? I prayed silently, “Dear Lord, please forgive me for complaining.  Help me to be able to wear a skirt happily, and to accept all the changes in my life.  In Jesus name, Amen.” 
            After church everyone stayed for a potluck fellowship.  Men and women bustled and set up tables.  The food was placed in bowls and platters and wonderful smells came from the kitchen as casseroles were warmed.  The girl named Sandy walked up to me when the table was spread with all the food.
“ Want to sit with us?” I looked at Sandy’s velvet trimmed dress and the tiny flowers in her pierced ears.  I hesitated.  Then I looked at Sandy’s friendly face. 
  “Oh, sure,” I said.  “Is it all right Mom and Dad?”
“Go ahead, find us afterward,” said Mom, and Dad nodded.
Sandy and I slid plates off the pile and stood in the food line.  There were some foods I recognized like fried chicken and potato salad but there were strange looking foods too.
“What’s that?” I asked Sandy pointing to a bowl of beans with black dots on them. 
“Black-eyed peas.”
I swallowed hard.  “And what about that?”  I pointed to a bowl of slimy looking green stuff.
“That’s okra.”
Ugh!  Oh how I missed all the good food in Alaska, especially the hot sourdough rolls.  “In Alaska, we…” Sandy was watching my face and I stopped.  Okay, maybe now was a good time for me to practice that scripture and not complain so much.
“What were you going to say?” Sandy asked.
“In Alaska we don’t have such yummy looking fried chicken and potato salad.”
Sandy grinned.  “My mom made the potato salad.  Try some it’s really good.”
I walked behind Sandy and put tasty looking food on my plate while I talked to Sandy.  Inside I felt warm and happy—the best I’d felt since I’d moved.  Giving up complaining felt great—maybe I’d keep it up.
I looked at Sandy and grinned.  “I might even try the okra.”

As I grew up I no longer complained about dressing like the other girls.   But I was delighted to go to college on the west coast and to be able to wear jeans to classes!  Thank you Lord!

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