Maizy Grace Stewart’s 5-Step Program to Authentic Christian Faith
Nice, upstanding Christian name—lucked out on that one. Must remember to answer to it.
- Monochromatic hair
I flip down my car’s visor mirror and peer at the Marilyn Monroe hair that waves off my oval face. I so miss my stripes. But under my present circumstances, it’s not as if I can afford to keep up the multiple-shade “do.” Back to the list.
- Minimal makeup
Do I feel naked! Another peek in the mirror confirms the feeling. Since I had passed on foundation and blush, applying only a light powder to even out my tone, I look pale. The overall effect is that my hazel eyes practically jump off my face from beneath perfectly plucked eyebrows (the stragglers made me do it).
- Below-knee skirt
- Button-up collar
- One-inch heels
Almost wish I were naked.
- Cross necklace and earrings
- WWJD bracelet
I scrunch up my nose. WWJD? Where would Jesus…? Why would Jesus…? I tap the bracelet. Ah! What would Jesus do?
- “Love Waits” ring
Oh no, it doesn’t. Still, it’s a nice thought, especially considering the guy I left behind. But best not to go there.
- Bible cover
And, I must say, it’s a nice cover. I look to where it sits on the passenger seat with the “KJV” (whatever that means) Bible tucked inside— intensely spiritual with a tapestry print of a country church. And the faux tortoiseshell handles! Nice touch.
- Twist pen with seven different scriptures
One for every day of the week.
- “Footprints in the Sand” bookmark
Touching poem. And a surprise ending too!
- Fish emblem
“Oops!” I open the ashtray, dig out the emblem, and drop it in my lap. “Check!”
- “Jesus is my copilot” bumper sticker
- Crown-of-thorns air freshener
I glance at the scented disk that hangs from my rearview mirror. Stinks, but nicely visible—practically screams, “This is one serious Christian.”
- “Jesus is my Savior.”
- “Jesus died for my sins.”
I close my eyes and run the lingo through my mind. “Got it!”
- “I’m praying for you.”
I wonder how many Christians really do.
- “I need to pray about that.”
Otherwise known as “No way, Jose!” Or, in these parts, as the “Nashville no.”
- “Bless his/her heart.”
Sympathetic aside tacked to a derogatory remark about someone to make it acceptable (possibly exclusive to the South, as I’d never heard it before moving to Nashville four months ago).
- “My brother/sister in Christ.”
- “God’s timing.”
- “Have a blessed day.”
- “Yours in Christ.”
Must remember to use that last one for note cards and such.
That one on West End should do—respectable looking and big enough to allow me to slip in and out undetected should I need to place myself in that setting. Of course, I hope the need does not arise. Not that I’m not a believer. I am. Sort of. I mean, I was “saved” years ago. Even went through the dunking process—the whole-water-up-the-nose thing (should not have panicked). But the truth is, other than occasionally attending church with my grandmother before and after I was saved, my faith is relatively green. Hence the need for a checklist.
“Uh! Just had to leave that one for last, Maizy.” Yes, Maizy, as in Maizy Grace. Courtesy of one Grandma Maizy, one Grandma Grace, and one mother with a penchant for wordplay. Amazing grace! And Mom isn’t even a Christian. But Dad’s mom is. According to Grace Stewart, the only thing my parents did right was to name me after her. I beg to differ. I mean…Maizy Grace? Though growing up I did my best to keep it under wraps, my mom blew it during a three-girl sleepover when she trilled upstairs, “Oh, Maizy Grace! How sweet the sound. Won’t you girls come on down?” Fodder for girlhood enemies like Cynthia Sircy, who beat me out for student council representative by making an issue of my “goody two-shoes” name. And that’s why I never use Grace.
Of course, it could prove useful today. I return to my checklist. “Testimony…” I glance at the dashboard clock, which reveals I’ve blown ten of my twenty minutes’ leeway. Guess I’ll have to think up a testimony on my way to the interview. Not that I don’t have a story of how I came to know Jesus. It’s just boring. Hmm. Maybe I could expand on my Christian summer camp experience—throw in an encounter with a bear or some other woodland creature with big teeth. Speaking of which…
I check my teeth in the mirror. Pale pink lipstick is so boring. Glaringly chaste. Borderline antisexual. Of course, that is the effect I’m after. All good.
“All right, Maizy—er, Grr-ace—get in there and get that job.” A job I badly need if I’m to survive starting over in Nashville. My parttime position as a lifestyle reporter at the paper has yet to translate into the full-time position I was led to believe it would after three months. Now, four months later, funds are getting low.
I fold my checklist and stick it in the book I picked up at Borders the day I surfed the classified ads and hit on “Christian company seeking editorial assistant.” Hmm. Editorial assistant—a far cry from reporter. In fact, beneath me, but what’s a girl to do?
Closing the book, I smile at the title: The Dumb Blonde’s Guide to Christianity. Not that I’m blond—leastwise, not naturally. Another glance in the mirror confirms that although the $7.99 over-the-counter bottle of blond is no $75 salon experience, it lives up to its claim. Not brassy at all. Still, maybe I should have gone back to basic brown so I wouldn’t have to worry about roots. But talk about boring.
I toss the book on the passenger seat, retrieve the fish emblem and my purse, and swing my legs out the open car door. After “hipping” the door closed, I hurry to the back. Unfortunately, unlike the bumper sticker, there seems no nonpermanent way to apply the emblem. Thus I have no choice but to pull off the backing and slap the fish on the trunk lid. Not sure what it symbolizes, but I can figure that out later—if I get the job. I lower my gaze to the “Jesus is my copilot” bumper sticker. Nice statement, especially with the addition of the fish.
Honestly, who wouldn’t believe I’m a deeply committed Christian? And if someone should call me on it, I could be forgiven—it is April 1, as in April Fools’ Day.
As I start to look away, the peeling lower edge of the bumper sticker catches my eye. Should’ve used more Scotch tape. I reach down.
“It’s crooked.” The accented, matter-of-fact voice makes me freeze. I’m certain it was directed at me, but did he say, “It’s crooked” or “She’s crooked”?
Surely the latter is merely a Freudian slip of my mind. And even if it isn’t, I’m not crooked. Just desperate.
As the man behind me could be an employee of Steeple Side Christian Resources, I muster a smile and turn. His fashionably distressed jeans are the first thing I notice where he stands, six feet away. Meaning he can’t be an employee. And he certainly isn’t looking for a handout—even better (though I sympathize with the plight of the homeless, they make me very uncomfortable). So he’s probably just passing through the parking lot. Perhaps heading for Steeple Side’s retail store, which occupies a portion of the lower floor of their corporate offices.
The next item of note is his shirt—a nice cream linen button-up that allows a glimpse of tanned collarbone. I like it. What I don’t like is his face—rather, expression. If not for his narrowed eyes and flatlined mouth, he’d be halfway attractive with that sweep of dark blond hair, matching eyebrows, and well-defined cheekbones. Maybe even three-quarters, but that would be pushing it, as his two-day shadow can’t hide a lightly scarred jaw. Teenage acne?
I gesture behind me. “My bumper sticker seems to be coming off.”
He lowers his green eyes over me, and while I may simply be paranoid, I’m certain he gives my cross earrings and necklace, buttonup collar, and below-knee skirt more attention than is warranted. He glances at the bumper sticker before returning his regard to me. “Yes, it is coming off.”
British. I’m certain of it. Nowhere near the southern drawl one more often encounters in Nashville.
“Of course”—he crosses his arms over his chest—“that’s because you’re using tape.”
That obvious? “Well, doesn’t everyone?” Ugh! Can’t believe I said that. Maybe there is something to the warning that you are what you read, as I could not have sounded more like the stereotypical dumb blonde if I tried.
He raises an eyebrow. “Everyone? Not if they want it to adhere permanently. You do, don’t you?”
Guilt flushes me and is followed by panic even though I have no reason to fear that this stranger with the gorgeously clipped accent might expose me as a fake. “Of course, I do!”
Is that a smile? “Splendid. Then I’ll let you in on a little secret.” Delicious accent or not, this doesn’t sound good. It isn’t, as evidenced by his advance. I step aside, and he drops to his haunches and peels away the tape.
“You see…” Holding up the sticker, he looks over his shoulder and squints against the sunlight at my back. "Self-adhesive.”
He peels off the backing, positions the sticker, and presses it onto my bumper—my previously adhesive-free bumper. He straightens. That is a smile, one that makes him look a bit like that new James Bond actor. What’s his name?
“You’d be surprised at how much technology has advanced over the last few years,” he says.
I nearly miss his sarcasm, genteelly embedded as it is in that accent. “Well, who would have thought?” Be nice, Maizy—er, Grace. My smile feels tight. In fact, my whole face feels as if it’s been lathered with Lava soap. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your taking the time to affix my bumper sticker properly.”
He inclines his head. “If you’d like, I’ll try to straighten your fish.” My…? “It’s crooked,” he had said. Not the bumper sticker—my fish. Meaning he probably saw me stick it on. Were he more than a passerby, I'd be deeply embarrassed.
“No, thank you. I like my fish slightly crooked.” I glance at the emblem, which appears to have its nose stuck in the air. “It makes him look as if he’s fighting the current. You know, like a good Christian.”
Very good, Ma—Grr-ace! Were he a Steeple Side employee, you would have won him over.
“So you’re a Christian?” So much for my self-congratulatory pat on the back. Of course, maybe his question is academic. I mean, it’s obvious I’m a Christian.
“Of course! A Christian. And proud of it.” Good practice. Unfortunately, if his frown is anything to go by, I’m in need of more. “Er, Jesus is my Savior.” Knew Christian speak would come in handy.
His frown deepens. Or maybe not. I make a show of checking my watch and gasp. Nothing at all fake about that, as most of my leeway has been gobbled up. Thankfully, I was lucky to— No, blessed. Must think as well as speak “Christian.”
Thankfully, I was blessed to snag a parking space at the front of the building—the only one, as the dozen spaces marked Visitor were taken, and the remaining spaces on either side of mine apparently are reserved for upper management.
I fix a smile. “Thank you again for your help. If you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment.”
I step forward and, as I pass within two feet of him, take a whiff. Some type of citrus-y cologne. Nice. Not sharp or cloying. Unlike Ben, whose cologne of choice made my nasal passages burn. And the Brit is nearly six feet tall to my five foot six. Not so tall I couldn’t wear three-inch heels for fear of shooting up past him. Unlike Ben, who’d limited me to one-inch heels—
Go away! Another reason to leave Seattle. With his liberal application of cologne and compact height and build, Ben was nowhere near the man for me. Not that his scent and size were the worst of him. Far from it. And am I glad to be far from him. As I step to the sidewalk, I’m tempted to glance behind at the nicely proportioned, bumper-sticker-happy Brit. Temptation wins out. Thumbs hooked in his pockets, he stands alongside my passenger door. Watching me.
Feeling as if caught doing something wrong, I jerk a hand up and scroll through my Christian speak for something to reinforce my claim of being a Christian. “Yours in Christ!” I flash a smile that instantly falters.
At the rumpling of his brow, I jerk around and head for the smoked glass doors of Steeple Side Christian Resources. Cannot believe I used a written salutation! Dumb blonde alert! Speaking of which… The Dumb Blonde’s Guide to Christianity is on the passenger seat.
Fortunately, if the man is nosy enough to scope out the interior of my car, it’s not as if I’ll see him again. That scrumptious accent and citrus cologne were a one-time thing. Unless he does work at Steeple
Side and I do get the job. Fat chance. As I pull open one of several sets of glass doors, I glance behind.
He’s on the sidewalk now, head back as he peers up the twenty-some floors of the building. Definitely not an employee. The lobby is bright and sparsely furnished, but what stops me is the backlit thirty-foot cross on the far wall. Fashioned out of what appears to be brushed aluminum, it’s glaringly simple. And yet I can’t imagine it having more presence.
Crossing to the information desk at the center of the lobby, I scope out several men and women who are entering and exiting the elevators. All nicely dressed. All conservative. I’ll fit right in—I zoom in on a woman stepping into the nearest elevator. Her skirt is above the knee by a couple inches. And that guy who just stepped out of another elevator? His hair brushes his shoulders. I shift my gaze back to the towering cross. I’m at the right place, meaning those two are probably visitors.
Same goes for the young woman who sweeps past and reaches the information desk ahead of me. Not only is she wearing ruched capris, but she has my hair. Rather, the hair I had. Ha! If she’s after my job, I’ve got her beat.
She drops a jingly purse on the desk and points behind me. “Jack is so hot!”
“Really?” The chubby-faced receptionist bounds out of her chair, only to falter at the sight of me.
“Yes, hot!” The “ruched” young woman jabs the air again, looks around, and startles. “Er, not hot hot. Hot, as in under the collar… ticked off.”
That’s my cue to appear relieved that she didn’t mean hot as in carnal, as she’s obviously connected to this company—at least to the receptionist. I nod. “That’s a relief.”
She smiles, then puts her forearms on the desk and leans in to whisper in a not too whisper-y voice, “This time they stole his assigned parking sign.”
If someone stole mine, it would make me “hot” too. Doubtless, some visitor would snap up my space, and I’d have to park— Oh no. The front parking space I snagged… The only unmarked space in the middle of dozens of marked spaces… I peer out the bank of windows. The Brit whose parking space I took and who does work here is striding toward the doors. And he does look hot, though I can’t be sure whether it’s more in the carnal way or the angry way. Regardless, I am not getting this job.
“May I help you, miss?”
I focus on the receptionist, who has no idea how beyond help I am. Still, as the only alternative is to face the Brit on my way out, I step alongside the ruched young woman. “I have an interview with Mrs. Lucas.”
The receptionist lowers her chin, and I hear a series of keystrokes. Hurry up! I can handle being late to an interview for a job I’m not likely to get, but sharing an elevator with a man who in no way believes I was unaware that bumper stickers are adhesive backed?
“You’re her one o’clock.” The receptionist points to the elevators. “Fifth floor, take a left, a right, then another left. Human Resources is at the end of the hall.”
“Thank you.” Fast feet! Must get to an elevator ahead of the Brit.
“Hey, hold up!”
I falter as the ruched young woman draws alongside me. “I’m heading to Human Resources. I’ll show you the way.”
“I’m Jem.” She slips ahead of me into a vacant elevator. “Short for Jemima.”
As she pushes the button for the fifth floor, I look at the very thin woman who can’t be more than twenty-two to my twenty-six. She seems more like a Tiffany or Brittany. Of course Jem without the ima fits all right. As I turn alongside her, I’m snatched from my musings by the Brit heading across the lobby toward the elevators.
I jump forward, jab the Close Doors button, and hold my breath until the doors shut him out at ten feet and closing.
“Ah!” Jem bemoans. “Jack could have ridden up with us.”
I look around. “Hot-under-the-collar Jack?”
Her pout flips right side up. “He doesn’t stay that way for long. He’s just miffed at the guys for pulling one over on him.”
“Yeah, Jack’s the managing editor of Men’s Publications.”
Great. Might as well head back down and see if I can remove the fish and bumper sticker before the adhesive sets.
“Oh!” she exclaims. “Don’t you think he looks like Daniel Craig?” That’s the name of the new James Bond actor that escaped me.
She exaggerates a scowl. “Obviously you need to take a closer look.”
“Anyway, the guys are the editors and writers who work under Jack. They’re always playing pranks on one another.”
A melodic ping announces our arrival at the fifth floor. Jem leads the way out and turns left. “Last week Todd was the target when the seat of his pants got super glued to his chair.” She turns right, swerving to avoid a middle-aged man heading opposite. “Don’t ask me how.”
“So what happened?”
“The guys had a good laugh and started plotting their next prank—which, of course, likely manifested itself in the case of the missing parking sign.”
“Are you telling me no one was written up? Or fired?”
She turns to me. “Fired? Are you kidding?”
No, merely confused. “Sorry, but I can’t imagine someone getting away with that, especially at a Christian company.”
She makes a face. “Because we’re supposed to be uptight, keep our noses to the grindstone, and never crack a smile?”
I smile apologetically. “That is what I imagined.”
“We’re not like that.”
Maybe working here won’t be so bad after all. Maybe these people are normal. Just like me.
“Well…” Her smile falters. “We’re not all like that.”
Should have known there was a disclaimer. “It sounds like a nice place to work.”
“Definitely.” With a toss of her multiply shaded hair—how I miss mine!—Jem takes the lead down a long corridor. “Of course, Steeple Side does have its rules like every other place, but unlike every other place, there’s a code of conduct you have to follow when you go home at night.”
Whoa! They’re going to tell me how to behave outside the workplace? Police my personal life?
“That’s probably why they cut us some slack around here. You know, let us have a little fun. Of course, sometimes we go too far, like with the Super Glue—” Realizing I’m no longer next to her, she turns back. “Something wrong?”
I blink her into focus and, in a slightly cracked voice, say, “Could you elaborate on this code of conduct we’re supposed to follow after hours?”
She stares at me, as if trying to reconcile the assembly instructions with the assembled product. “You have no idea what you’re getting into, do you?”
Hate to admit it, but my tactless reaction—a far cry from how a serious reporter ought to conduct herself—makes my ignorance glaring. “I’ve never worked for a Christian company.”
With a sigh, she waves me forward. “The code of conduct. You know, living the Christian life. You are a Christian, aren’t you?”
I almost choke. “Absolutely!” Was that convincing? It should be, because I am a Christian. No reason to feel as if I’m here under false pretenses. She pushes a hand through silky chunks of auburn, chocolate,
gold, and bronze tresses.
“Good, ’cause it’s required to work here. So back to the code of conduct. As an employee, you’re a reflection of the company and its Christian values, so you have to behave accordingly. I mean, can you imagine the harm it would do Steeple Side’s reputation if its employees who are putting out materials on how to live the Christian life aren’t living it? Doing drugs…stealing…cheating on spouses…” True, but while I don’t do any of the above, it still feels like a violation of my privacy. “…lying.”
Now that I do fall back on, though usually only little white lies, like when I told the Brit I did want the bumper sticker to adhere permanently, then said I appreciated him taking the time to affix it. But they’re little lies, and very white, so they don’t qualify as lying. Do they? And even if they do, it’s not as if I don’t pay a price, as I usually feel bad afterward. Though maybe only a little…
Jem lays a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t sweat it. It’s a great place to work.” She draws me forward and halts alongside a door marked Human Resources. “Now go get that job.”
I do need it. Even if “Big Brother” will be looking over my shoulder.
“You’re welcome. It was nice meeting you…uh…” She wrinkles her button nose. “I don’t think you told me your name.”
“It’s M…” I clear my throat. “Grace.”
She frowns. “You don’t look like a Grace.”
“I don’t?” Talk about shrill!
“Of course, I don’t look like a Jemima, but that’s why I go by Jem.”
I stick out a hand. “Nice to meet you. God willing”—Ha! That one rolled right off my tongue—“we’ll see each other around.”
She clasps my hand. “You bet.” Then she walks away. I’m tempted to follow her and keep going until I’m miles clear of this place.