Read an Excerpt
By Stephanie Perry Moore
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2002 Stephanie Perry Moore
All rights reserved.
Embracing the Good
My feet were planted firmly on the ground, but it felt as if I were a part of the beautiful sky. I was closer to God than I had been my whole life. My head was more clear and my heart was more His. The unsure feeling of who I was subsided.
"Lord, thank You," I cried. "I'm so grateful that You stuck by me. You are the truth, the way, and the light. The only thing that is important is pleasing You. I have given all of my trouble to You, and now I am free. I'm a new Payton Skky. I want to walk a life that pleases You."
I completely loved the Lamb of God. I was happy to give my problems to God. With His help I could live a victorious Christian life.
* * *
As soon as I made it to my cold bedroom the phone rang.
"Hey," Tad said in a way that melted my heart.
"Oh, hey. You made it home."
"Yeah, I just wanted to let you know that I got here safely. I really enjoyed our evening," he told me.
He was such a gentleman. We had come from my father's Christmas party at the car dealership. Tad Taylor, my former boyfriend, meant more to me than I wanted to admit. Since I had taken him through so much, Tad decided we didn't need to be together.
That night we didn't kiss, hold hands, or do anything romantic, but it felt so right just being with him. Though he was dating another girl, I was starting to realize that, deep within, I was hoping we could be more than friends again. If we ever were, I knew I would not let go of such a special guy.
"I really enjoyed our time together, too," I told him.
We spent another ten minutes on the phone talking about our Christmas plans. He was leaving the next day to go with the University of Georgia football team to the bowl game in Florida. I was going to spend the first part of Christmas Day with my family and then go to Conyers to spend time at my grandparents' house.
"Do you think you'll be able to go to the bowl game?" Tad asked me sweetly.
"I don't know. Going down to Florida sounds mighty appealing, but I don't know if I can."
"Well, I have some extra tickets, so if you want to go just let me know."
"Thanks for asking. Merry Christmas, Tad. I hope you get a chance to play in the game and show off."
"I don't know about all of that, but I hope we win."
"You're always so modest, Tad," I told him.
"I don't look at it that way. I'd say I'm just humble. This talent comes from the Lord."
"Yeah, what are you thinking about? You're kind of quiet," I said after an unusual silence.
"I was just thinking about when I first met you. Payton, you blew me away with your beauty. Looking at you made me feel special."
Inside I was breaking. As sweet as he was, I had messed up. I treated him ten times worse than anyone deserved, especially him.
His phone clicked for another call, which was a good thing because I didn't know how to respond to his compliment. No matter how fond he was of me, I wasn't his girl anymore. When he came back to the phone and told me it was Vonda, a girl from his hometown, whom he was dating. I knew that he was moving on without me.
* * *
"Rain, what's wrong?" I asked in a panic as my best friend from high school entered my room with bloodshot eyes.
She stretched out her arms as if she wanted me to hug her. As we embraced, the tears started flowing from her eyes. She cried as if her whole world had fallen apart.
"Rain, talk to me. What's wrong?"
I wondered what could have her so upset. Did she have a car accident? Is someone in her family hurt? Or worse, did someone die? While terrible thoughts raced through my mind, she continued to cry uncontrollably.
She still wouldn't speak so I prayed to myself. Lord, how am I supposed to help her when she won't talk to me? My friend is in my arms breaking down. Help me get it together to open her up. If she won't, then please don't let the situation get any worse.
Finally she said, "It's Tyson."
Tyson was her boyfriend all during high school and he was sweet. He didn't go to Lucy Laney with us; he went to school across town. Rain and Tyson were inseparable. They even went to college in the same city to be near each other. Rain went to Spelman while Tyson went to Georgia Tech.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I asked, handing her a tissue.
"It was just like what happened last year in high school with Dakari." Rain spoke in a soft, sad tone. "A couple of girls keep coming on to him at Georgia Tech. He wants me to make a choice whether I want to be with him physically or not. I want to be with him, but I want to wait until we're married. I thought he would understand. I got my Bible so that we could pray through it. Girl, he took my Bible and threw it across the room! He was so mad. He said he was faithful to me and when he wanted to take the relationship further he thought I would. He said I was wasting his time. He told me that by keeping the good-girl act I wasn't going to get anybody. He used to tell me that he loved the fact that I was a virgin."
I explained, "Maybe he was just saying what he knew you wanted to hear. I know it hurts back then because I've been there. I'm so happy that you and Dakari didn't get intimately involved. Imagine how much worse you would be feeling if you gave it up to him and he still left."
"If I would've done it, maybe he wouldn't be gone," she said, unsure.
"Maybe is the key word there. The uncertainty of it all is enough for you to send him packing."
"You're so strong, Payton. I don't know if I can do that."
"Remember, Rain, I wasn't strong initially. One thing I have learned is that guys come and go, circumstances come and go, but God is constant, and He can see you through all of this. The reason you didn't have sex with Tyson is that God wanted you to say no. Because you have honored Him, God is going to bless you. Yes, Tyson was the guy you loved, but you love God more and the Lord ain't gonna leave you. He's gonna fix this. Just watch. Please, just don't make the mistake I made. If God sends you a good Christian guy, don't make him second best. You're gonna get over this, Rain. You have to pray and let God be your everything. You know I'm here for you. It's too bad you didn't bring clothes. You could have spent the night."
"We just got back from my grandmother's, and we brought her with us. I think I need to spend some time with her. Thanks for being such a great friend. I love you, Payton Skky. I used to think you were selfish sometimes and only cared about yourself, but I was wrong."
"I wasn't always a good friend, but I'm trying to be a better person. I'm trying to live like Jesus would and not like Payton would. You know what I'm sayin'?"
"Yeah, that's good advice, and I need to do that too. I know these next couple of days aren't going to be easy, but before I go tell me what's up with you, Payton. What's up with you and Georgia?"
"My school is a totally different place than I was used to. When I get down, I just think about high school and I laugh. Something about you, Dymond, or Lynzi always gets my spirit up. I had a roommate who tried to kill herself, two girls who wanted Tad and Dakari, a suite mate that didn't like me, bad grades, and a whole bunch of stuff."
"Oh, girl, are we gonna make it? College is hard."
"Yes, it is, but we made it through high school at Lucy Laney and you know how crazy that place was. We can make it, right?" I questioned.
"Yeah! I miss you, Payton."
"Girl, I miss you too."
* * *
"Granddaddy?" I said in a startled tone when I awoke from sleep and saw my grandfather standing over me.
It was Christmas morning, but the sun wasn't up yet. I heard heavy breathing and something made me wake up.
"Granddaddy, are you OK?"
"Yeah. I just thought I would get up early and maximize my day. It's Christmas, you know. I remember when I was your age. It was my first Christmas out of high school when I proposed to your grandmother."
"Right out of high school?"
"We didn't have choices about college back then. When you graduated you were considered an adult. I asked her to marry me, but what other choice could she make? As you guys say, I was the man back then and my game was tight."
I couldn't believe I was laughing at 5:10 in the morning. Something about being with him right then and there didn't bother me. I didn't care that it was early. I didn't care that I needed more sleep. I was just happy that he sat on the edge of my bed and told me romantic stories of him dating my grandmother.
"She was a great gal, Payton, and similar to you. She is beautiful now, but back then she made my heart dance."
"Oh, that's so sweet."
"What about you? Is your heart dancing for anybody? I've been praying for your mate."
"Are you trying to marry me off?" I joked. "Times have changed, Granddaddy. I'm not trying to get married until who-knows-when."
"That's good. I'm glad you're focused. Being an independent woman is great. But there is nothing wrong with letting a nice young gentleman into your life, especially the right one, one who loves the Lord. I don't want you to get with someone who looks halfway decent but treats you like he treats the bottom of his shoe. Be smart, my dear. You're my granddaughter, and you deserve the best. When I'm gone—"
"Don't say that," I said, cutting my grandfather off.
He had been talking about dying a lot lately, and it was starting to make me uncomfortable. I know no one can live forever, but just because he was old didn't mean he was going to go before me. I hugged him tightly. How dare he talk about when he was gone? He was so strong he was probably going to outlive all of us.
"Do you smell them biscuits?" he asked. "That's one thing I love about your grandmother."
My grandmother was up cooking early Christmas morning, and I knew my mother wouldn't like that too much. The whole point of staying at our house on Christmas morning was so that my mom could prepare her spread in her kitchen. Just like my grandmother wasn't too fond of Pillar's mom because she is white, she never really liked my mother, either, and my mother is black.
My grandmother and my mom didn't have a bad relationship, but it wasn't a warm and fuzzy one. So I got up, put on my robe, helped my grandfather into the kitchen, and went to find my mother to do damage control.
I hugged her and said, "Grandma is helping you out so you won't have to work so hard on Christmas."
"Don't tell me she's in there baking," my mom said with a slight attitude.
"All right, I won't," I told her.
She gave my dad a sour look. "Perry, you know I wanted to do this. Why didn't you tell your mother?"
"You know my mom," Dad said, throwing his hands up in the air.
It was Christmas morning, and I didn't want any family drama. "Let's all take a deep breath," I said, "and remember this is supposed to be a good day."
"Yeah, honey, just tolerate my mom for today. You know she doesn't mean any harm. She never does."
My mom was extremely disappointed, probably more so because her parents decided once again not to come to Christmas dinner. My maternal grandparents lived in south Florida. She had no siblings so she missed her parents terribly. My mom had an older sister who had died from scarlet fever when she was ten, and her relationship with her mother was strained because of that. Maybe that was why Grandma couldn't really relate to me.
Today wasn't going like she wanted it to, and she needed a hug. So I followed her into her bathroom.
"Mom, I'm sorry your day isn't going like you planned. I just want you to know that Christmas can still be special and I love you. We can still celebrate Jesus' birth."
She grabbed my robe and pulled me toward her. "Thanks for understanding, Payton. Thanks for caring about me. But I will be fine. Now let me get ready and eat some of your grandmother's cooking. I prayed to Jesus because I didn't know how I was going to make it this morning, but He sent you in here to give me the wind to carry on. I'm glad you're home for the holidays. We will have to do something extra-special before you go back to school."
I went into the living room and grabbed a couple of presents from under the tree. My father had already given me an empty square box. Self-esteem was inside of it, he said. He told me I was just like the box, that I had self-esteem wrapped secretly inside. Every time I looked at the package I knew that we had that in common. I had been dealing with a lot last semester at school. I felt as if I didn't measure up, and my father's present made my day.
Now it was Christmas morning and I was ready to open some presents, put on some new clothes, get some money or something. As my dad always did, he went over and pulled out some old videotapes from Christmases past.
Perry Jr., my younger brother, came over to me with a present. "Here."
During all the Christmas rush I had forgotten to get him something. I had something for everyone except him.
When I opened the present I saw a beautiful silver bracelet. "I'm gonna hook you up," I told him.
"You know what I want, right?"
Of course I knew. He wanted what he always wanted and what he could never seem to have enough of—tennis shoes.
Despite its rough beginning, we somehow got through the morning. My cousin Pillar and her family were supposed to come for Christmas, but they didn't. Though I missed Pillar, I wasn't heartbroken that she didn't come. My grandfather was really disappointed, but his two daughters were going to be there.
We arrived in Conyers about two, which gave my parents just enough time to get to the airport to pick up my two aunts. My Aunt Esther was coming from Dallas and my Aunt Georgia was coming from New Jersey.
As we ate a traditional soul-food dinner at my grandparents' table, I couldn't help but think about the Georgia football team. I hoped Tad was having a good Christmas.
Wow! I thought. I'm not even thinking about Dakari, and he plays football, too. Lord, if there is any way You can help me get Tad back ...
My grandfather led most of the dinner conversation as he reminisced about his life. He talked about being a father of four kids and about getting the dealership.
"As I think back over all my years," my grandfather began, "life really started to get good for me at sixty. I finally went back to the place where I was born. God showed me that He wanted me to know Him, and that having a relationship with Him is far more important than anything. The Lord is my best friend. I'm going to leave here soon, but I know that I will have life eternally. Christmas Day is all about praising the name of Jesus Christ. When I leave this earth I can't wait for my Lord to say, 'Well done.' If God can't be enough to fulfill you, then what do you have to look forward to? Thank You, Jesus, for being good to me! Thank You," my grandfather shouted as he got up and left the table.
We all looked at one another. It wasn't a sermon, but it was a moving testimony.
My grandfather was right. Christmas was about praising the name of Jesus. The day was almost over, but before it was, my grandfather set us all straight about the true reason to celebrate Christmas.
* * *
Lord, I said on my knees in the guest room of my grandparents' home, I feel so at peace right now and it feels as if You've come down from heaven and wrapped Your arms around me. Not that I'm wishing that wasn't the case, but something seems weird. I join my grandfather in praising You. Thank You for my blessing.
My grandfather came into my room and cut my prayer short. "Payton, you make me so proud. Come and give me a hug."
I got off my knees and hugged my grandfather.
"Keep on doing what you're doing. Don't lose sight of the goal. It's all about winning souls for Him."
"I don't do a lot of witnessing, but Tad has helped me a lot."
"He sounds like a nice young man."
"I think you met him at graduation."
"Oh, I remember he was a really nice gentleman. Payton, I don't feel good. I'm going to go lie down for a while. Will you bring me some water in a little bit?"
"Yes. Of course I will, Granddaddy."
"Where did your dad go?"
"He went to play basketball with Perry."
"Where are all the ladies? The house is so quiet."
"They are out on the porch. Do you need any help?" I asked as I saw him cringe at his stomach.
"No, I'll be all right. You just make sure that everyone gets along and knows that it's Christmas."
I went into the kitchen to get my grandfather some water. It had been twenty minutes since I had talked to him. The heat wasn't on because the gas fireplace was going.
I opened the bedroom door and put the water on the dresser. He was asleep and it was cold in the house, but he didn't have a blanket on him. I got a blanket from the closet and tucked it around him. It was as if he was a block of ice. I picked up the glass of water and tried to wake him.
"Papa," I said softly, "wake up and drink some water."
I went to the other side of the room and turned on the light. He was lying almost too still and I started to panic.
"Papa, wake up."
I touched his chest. His heart wasn't beating. Without a thought I let go of the glass of water and started trying to make his heart beat with my hands.
I screamed, "Papa! Wake up!"
I heard the back door open and my brother and father laughing.
"Daddy! Come here! Hurry! It's Granddaddy!"
My father rushed into the room and Perry pulled me back. My father checked Granddad's pulse. "Call 911!"
Excerpted from Surrendered Heart by Stephanie Perry Moore. Copyright © 2002 Stephanie Perry Moore. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.