Mama B - A Time to Speak (Book 1), page 1
Mama B: A Time to Speak
(Book 1 of the Mama B Series)
By Michelle Stimpson
The good folks at Mt. Zion Baptist are doing their best to keep the church flowing smoothly while Pastor Phillips takes time off to be with his wife in her final days. Beatrice "Mama B" Jackson even opens her home so that the women's groups can continue to meet faithfully after some “rascal” stole the copper from the church’s air conditioning unit. With her semi-estranged granddaughter and great-grandson staying in the guest room, Mama B soon has a full house.
When the interim preacher and his wife start touting messages that don’t line up with the Bible, Mama B wonders how and if she can intervene without causing strife in the congregation or discouraging the young couple.
However, Mama B can only take so much of this foolishness. Though her own faith might be intact, she can’t have her great-grandson believing that God is a Sugar Daddy in the sky. Soon enough, Mama B will realize there is much more at stake than she or anyone else at Mt. Zion ever imagined. And it’s time to speak.
Mama B - A Time to Speak is full of godly wisdom and humor that will make you take a deep breath after that last page and smile from the inside out.
Copyright 2012 by Michelle Stimpson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for brief quotations in reviews, without written permission from the author.
The characters in this book are fictional. Any resemblance to actual people or events is coincidental.
Published by MLStimpson Enterprises
For all the women of God
who minister as a way of life.
Great is your reward.
Always, thanks be to God for the life given to me in Christ. The more You reveal Yourself to me, the more I realize what You have already done for and through me. You alone are amazing!
I’m thankful for my writing group members who gave me encouragement and feedback throughout the drafting of this book: Janice, Lynne, Kellie, Jane, Margie, the two Patty’s, Kesha, Jackie, Lyndie and everyone else who dropped by for either critique or food. You ladies are so much fun!
Monica Harris-Mindolovich, your editorial eye is always a blessing to me. And special thanks to Vicki Prather for the second polishing.
Thanks to my family for your unyielding support. I know it can be hard living with an artist. I believe you all are graced to put up with me.
Kimberly, thanks for giving me all this advice about cooking with turkey. Thanks to Kimmie McNeese for giving me the scoop on how churches operate. And also thanks to one of my real-life Mama B’s, fellow writer Ginnie Bivona, who gave me the “Rule of One” and continues to amaze me with her spunk at the ripe young age of 81. To the original Mama B in my life, my grandmother – thanks for making the resolution of this book clear to me in one word of wisdom.
I’m completely humbled by the book clubs and individual readers who continue to read my works after all these years. It is my hope that we have grown in Him together. And it is my pleasure to continue to serve you through books and characters and messages that (I trust) encourage your faith. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
To God Be the Glory!
If Rev. Omar hollers one more time that it’s gonna be hotter than this in hell, I’m going to have to walk out of this sanctuary. I, for one, don’t plan on spending no time in hell. No sense in gettin’ prepared for a place you ain’t goin’ to.
I kept my feet still, though. He was trying, bless his heart. And it wasn’t his fault somebody stole all the copper out the church’s air conditioning system the night before. People ought to have more respect for the house of God. But I guess when some folks get broke and their babies start crying for milk, don’t matter to them how they get the money so long as they get it.
I’d already asked the Lord to touch the rascal who took the copper; give him a mind to work an honest job and let somebody hire him. Either that or put him in jail so he can’t mess up nobody else’s air.
Rev. Martin said the thief was probably somebody on drugs who needed quick money. “All these Dallas folks movin’ into town,” he had fussed earlier while we rummaged through the storage looking for fans and Kleenexes before the service started. “They bring the dope and the crime problems with ‘em.”
“You sure right about that,” Mother Ophelia Pugh seconded. “I wish they’d find some place else to move. Peasner gettin’ way too crowded for me.”
“Where else you want ‘em to go?” I laughed quietly.
“I don’t know, Beatrice, just not here.”
Peasner had always been a good spot to live. Folk got along with each other, for the most part. We was close enough to the city to have a good doctor and mighty fine shopping; far enough out to not need an alarm system for your house. People still knew each other—families, businesses and whatnot. At least that’s the way it used to be. But since they put that highway loop through Peasner, seem like a whole lot of restaurants poppin’ up. New houses going up so fast, make your head swim.
Ophelia passed me another unopened tissue box. These would come in handy when folks got to sweating. “Sister, I like that suit. Sharp! Tell you what, B, if I lose about fifty pounds, I’mma have to come make my home in your closet.”
I shooed at her. “Please, Ophelia. You know as well as I do, they make pretty clothes for all sizes. Not like back when all you could buy was a muumuu, over size fourteen.”
Ophelia pulled the light switch and stepped down off the stool. “That’s it. No more Kleenexes.”
I looked down at the four boxes in my hand and shook my head. The church had nine pews on each side. On a regular Sunday, all but the last couple of rows would be at least half full. I figured once folks got to standing and clapping and carrying on, we’d need a whole lot more than those few tissues and funeral home fans to keep them from passing out.
Now back in my day, before we had air conditioning, we could worship the Lord all day at church with just the breezes flowing through the open windows. We were used to high temperatures. I do believe God graced us for the Texas heat before He let us figure out how to beat it.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I likes my air conditioner. My late husband, Albert, used to fuss—ooh, Lord, that man could fuss—about me running the air twenty-four hours a day. We never could agree on what degrees the house should be.
I sure do miss fussin’ with Albert.
Well, anyway, I already knew those folk sure would be fussin’ that Sunday. Had to go on and get my mind ready for it. And get myself ready, too. My no-air-conditioning days were long behind me. At seventy-two years old, I had no business letting my body get overheated. If service went too long, I would have to tip out.
“I don’t know, Mama B.” Rev. Martin had sighed, wiping sweat from his forehead already. He led us from the fellowship hall back to the main foyer. “You think we ought to cancel service? It’ll start getting real hot around noon.”
Mother Pugh shook her head so hard her pillbox hat like ta fell off. “We will do no such thing. This church been open every Sunday for thirty-nine years. We don’t cancel service for nothin’. If the flood of ’87 didn’t stop us, neither will a little sunshine.”
“Who’s preachin’ today?” I had asked him.
His eyes shifted off to the right a little, then he replied. “I believe Rev. Omar, from St. Luke.”
Rev. Martin’s face winced a bit. I knew he was suffering, trying to run things in his uncle’s absence and his aunt’s illness. O
His eyebrows raised, he shook his head. “Mama B, I really don’t know. Uncle Ed says she’s entering stage four.”
In all my years, I done heard so many doctors be wrong, terms like “stage four” don’t phase me none. “Rev. Martin, don’t you be moved by what they say, you keep your aunt lifted in prayer.”
I looked up at Rev. Martin. Spittin’ image of his mother – I used to work with her in the salon. Rev. Martin was still young. In his early fifties. Needed to prove himself a faithful Indian before he took on the title of Chief one of these days—if the Lord ever called him to preach.
Ophelia, Rev. Martin and I entered the sanctuary again through the swinging wooden doors. I took a deep breath. Lord knows I love the smell of His house. The carpet, the pews, the old wooden pulpit Pastor Phillips and my Albert built with their own hands. They set every stained glass window in place, nailed down every pew, laid all the baseboards on top of the carpet. Pastor Phillips wasn’t married back then, so I had to look out for both of them. Brought them iced tea and lemonade, fed them after the end of a hard day’s work—mostly on Saturdays and Sundays because we all had full-time jobs. Took us a while, but Mt. Zion had been built with a lot of faith, patience, love, and sweat.
Back in ’73, when Albert and I donated the other half of our property to build the church on, we knew this space would be something special. A place where folks could come and get help and experience the love of Jesus through His people.
Pastor Phillips really wasn’t that good a preacher back then. He used to read from his yellow legal pad like my kids used to read from their little note cards when they gave a speech at school. Nervous! But God anointed Pastor Phillips and used him anyway because he had a willing heart and he loved people. He was a real good pastor before he was a real good preacher. Sometimes, it’s like that. God give you grace as you go in faith.
Anyhow, we sure did miss Pastor Phillips’ pastorin’ and his preachin’ while he was out caring for his wife. Rev. Martin was doing a good enough job of holding down the fort, but all those different ministers coming on all those different Sundays was startin’ to wear me out. Some of ‘em so wired up, felt like we was at a rock and roll show. And some of ‘em be ‘bout to put me to sleep right there on the front row. I know the Lord just trainin’ ‘em up like he did Pastor Phillips. I got to be more patient.
But wasn’t going to be much patience that day with no air in the building. Already, I could feel my pores opening up, and it wasn’t even nine o’clock yet.
I looked at Rev. Martin over the rim of my glasses. “Listen here, I’ll pray and ask the Lord to hold off the heat. You tell Rev. Omar to preach real fast today, okay?”
“Let the church say…”
My feet took off toward the doorway. Father forgive me for rushing out of Your house, but we need to get this copper back first thing in the morning!
The only fellowshipping I did after the benediction was with Angela Freeholt, our church secretary. Poor child must not have gotten the word that the church would be hot. She had on an unseasonable black, long-sleeved dress with stockings and closed-toe shoes.
“Angela, I just want to make sure you have all the numbers you need to call the insurance company tomorrow. If not, you can get ‘em from Rev. Martin, need be.”
She wiped moisture from under her glasses and nodded as we both crossed the church threshold and entered the sunlight. Same temperature outside as it was inside. “Yes, Mama B. I’ve got them.”
“Okay. And if you need to sit in the cool of my house while you talk to ‘em, just come on through.”
She slowed for a second to give me a genuine thank-you. “We may need to do that, hot as it is out here. You take care. Stay out of this heat.”
“You know I will,” I assured her. “You have a blessed week.”
“Same to you.”
With the insurance business well under way, I booked it on across the church lawn, passed through the gate, and entered my own back yard. All my flowers seemed to be hiding. “Where y’all at?” I whispered to them. You got to talk to plants and flowers, you know?
When my kids were little, we had a swing set in the back yard. And a couple of dogs—Blackie was Son’s dog (that’s what we call Albert, Jr.); Co-Co was Otha’s. Wish I had a dollar for all the scrapes and cuts and fights my two sons got playing outside. My two girls played and fought, too, except Cassandra was a tattletale. She always ran inside to tell me they was fighting the minute she started losing. And Debra Kay would come inside when she got a little dirt on her pants. She never was one for getting all messy. Takes after her momma.
Soon as everybody moved out, Albert and I pulled up the swing, filled in all the holes the dogs had dug, and turned the back yard into a little piece of heaven. Well, I shouldn’t say Albert and I did it ‘cause mostly it was him.
He’d been gone for almost eight years and I didn’t have a mind to keep it up like he did. Got me a yardman to come out and cut the grass every couple of weeks. Didn’t plant no more flowers, though. Whatever flowers I had just shot up out the ground and surprised me whenever they got good and ready.
Made me feel like Albert was still giving me flowers.
Concrete stepping stones led me another fifty feet, through the grass and up to my back porch. Few months earlier, Son had advised me to start locking my back door. I had agreed because I didn’t want to hear him fuss, but every time I had to fish my key out of my purse, I wished I hadn’t. Especially not that day, when my throat was screaming for a glass of iced water.
Finally, I found my key and let myself in the back door. Thank You, Lord. The cool rush of conditioned air welcomed me home along with the smell of onions and other vegetables simmering in my crock pot.
One good thing about living alone is you don’t have to worry about what other folk want to eat. You feel like eatin’ turkey stew in June, you eat turkey stew in June. Nobody there to complain they don’t want a winter meal on a summer day.
One more good thing about being by myself: I still had a good portion left of the chocolate cake I made Friday. Ooh wee! My kids and my husband used to tear through a cake in less than twenty-four hours. Now, it’s all mine. Took so long to eat it sometimes I walked over to the church and gave part of it to the children’s choir when they finish rehearsing. Better to give it away than be wasteful.
The screen door swatted my behind and I shut as well as locked the door behind me. Son would have been proud.
Walked through the kitchen, making sure everything was in place. Didn’t expect no problems, just habit, I guess.
The den’s wood-paneled walls were my family wall of fame. All four of my kids’ high school graduation pictures, Son’s military picture, mine and Albert’s graduation and a shot of us standing beside our wedding cake, too. I know people on the decorating channels don’t hardly put photographs on their walls no more. I feel sorry for ‘em. Covered all up with wallpaper or just plain old white paint to make it look “clean”. Hmph. Clean and lonely-lookin’ if you ask me.
The kitchen and dining area, off to the right, brought in all the sunlight. Plenty good cookin’ and good times in there.
Three bedrooms all down the left hallway. One bathroom there, too. Kids used to fight over that bathroom something awful! Albert and I had our own bathroom in the master suite. We added that in ’78 because soon as Debra Kay hit the teenage years, I knew for sure I couldn’t share a bathroom with her. Take her thirty minutes just to put her hair in a ponytail.
All the back part of the house was just as I’d left it. Last thing to do was walk through the front parlor. Nobody ever went in the room, but every once in a while somebody would slip a prayer request or a thank-you note through the mailbox and
A quick look through the front room showed me something more than a little card had arrived for me that day.
Through the sheer part of my curtains, I could see two figures sitting on my porch bench. A woman and a little boy. I paused for a second, had to think of who they might be.
Then I caught onto her voice as she fussed at the child. “Cameron, this is the last time I’m going to tell you to tie your shoes correctly. You don’t want Mama B to think you eight years old and can’t even tie your shoes right, do you?”
Cameron. Nikki. I should have known something was going on with those two as much as the Lord had been bringing them up in my Spirit. My mind didn’t even have time to ask the questions before I found myself outside again, on that porch hugging them.
“Mama B,” she nearly cried as she pulled me into her embrace, “I’m so glad to see you.”
“Me, too, Nikki-Nik!” Inside, my heart was bubbling over with joy. Nikki, my oldest grandbaby, come to Peasner to see me.
“And look at you, Cameron! Oh, you look so much like your grandfather, it’s a shame!”
He didn’t say anything, just stood there with a little shy smile on his face.
My granddaughter looked good. Like she’d been taking care of herself. Light brown skin, just like her Daddy, button nose like her mother. Got the kind of hair can straighten out with just a blow dryer. Toes done, nails done. Been taking care of herself.
Cameron looked well, too, though he was still holding on to quite a bit of baby fat. No matter, I’d rather have him too plump than too skinny any day. Thank You, Lord, for keeping them in Your care.
After all our greeting, I took a step back from them. “Does your father know you’re here?”
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