Gracious Plenty

Down on 11th Street, truck farmers brought in their homegrown produce. The tomatoes, peaches, okra all come in balsa wood “crates”. These small oblong crates were just the right size for picnic lunches. In Ladybug’s kitchen, after the produce came out the baskets were hand washed and put in the sun to dry out. Small groupings of cherries were hand painted on the side to match the green binder at the top.

Then a red checked napkin was spread out and pushed into the lunch box. Into the box was placed 2 pieces of Julia’s fried chicken – one white meat breast and a second piece of dark meat thigh or drumstick. One half of salt risen bread sandwich, with the crust cut off, would have pimento cheese made from cheese grated by hand and Julia’s famous mayonnaise. The other half would be carefully constructed cream cheese, thin sliced cucumber and a thin spread of, yes, Julia’s mayo. Something wonderful happens to a sandwich after dwelling in wax paper. Next comes a small cup of potato salad and carrot and celery sticks. The last 2 serendipities are wrapped separately – one chocolate brownie and one lemon square.

Pass the fruit filled ice tea and you have one of the hundreds of Southern summer gatherings at Ladybug’s.

The picnic basket was a “gracious plenty”.

At 19, she came into my life. It’s no wonder that Ladybug with her bent toward details would ask me … a house guest … her son’s new girlfriend…. a question that completely changed the trajectory of my life. She asked me if I was a sinner. My answer came immediately … NO! Very quietly she said “the Bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

The “gracious plenty” picnic basket is a picture of Ladybug’s entire life. Her beliefs and her behaviors were so in alignment that what was inside the basket was all-important. She that day knew an empty basket when she saw one!

Ladybug had the finest home my borrowed shoes had ever been in. Much like the basket with the hand painted cherries, I looked kinda cute on the outside. The girls in my dorm, when learning of my “weekending” at the home of my soon to be husband and father of the child I was ALREADY carrying, they collectively filled a suitcase with name brand clothes… all to be returned! My outside was painted up kinda cute, but my inside was empty. There was no “gracious plenty” in me, and for the 1st time I knew I was empty.

Ephesians 3:19 says:

“… and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you may be FILLED UP to all the fullness of God.”

“Gracious plenty” came into my heart that day. HIS fullness began to fill my basket. Over the next 20+ years, Ladybug gently placed truths from the Word that were gracious and plenty into my empty basket.

Here in the South, religion has been exposed as something to be proclaimed, sometimes from the roof tops, but has nothing to do with how we live our lives. What’s inside the basket is the “good stuff”… the “real stuff”.

So how do I know “gracious plenty” actually happened inside me that day?

Might as well lay it out there! I confess I’m also a country music fan. As one lyric goes…
“like a needle in a groove” …surely you remember “vinyl”. When the needle was in the groove it was magical! The trajectory, the path was set. My empty basket was being lovingly filled.

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