Hanging By a Thread

The Prodigal Son may be a story of forgiveness, but to some people it is also a story about a loose tooth.  Okay, only to me, but with good reason. 

Luke, my six-year-old, had his front tooth loose and hanging by a thread for months, with no end in sight.  Every day brought more certainty that this tooth was with us for the long haul.  Through graduations, weddings, and funerals, The Tooth would be there as an inextricable part of our family. I’ve seen bull dogs with less tenacity. 

Every time Luke smiled at me, I saw his future before me in a flash.  In every scene, he still sported a dangling, loose front tooth.  Every milestone picture captured it:  driver’s license, prom, even holding his first child.

Then there was my recurring nightmare of his wedding.  In front of friends and family, Luke stood at the altar, exceedingly handsome with his surfer-blond hair and strapping physique.  He turned to greet his lovely bride and smiled.  The crowd gasped in horror at the sight of his dangling, bloody tooth.  He lisped, “I, Luke Hanthon, take thee…”

I felt a terrible sense of guilt as a mother.  When Luke got his first tooth at one year,  my heart gushed over how adorable he looked. Now I just wanted to grab a pair of pliers and yank.

When a child has a loose tooth, the rest of the family hangs in the balance.  In the middle of all this dental madness, I happened to be reading the story of the Prodigal Son.  Of course, this name was just assigned to him over time; it wasn’t actually his nickname.  It’s not like his father referred to him this way in the Christmas newsletter.  This year our Prodigal Son decided that my hard-earned money really must grow on trees so why not waste it all and have nothing to show for it.  We’re so proud.

The Prodigal Son demanded all of his inheritance at once and then led a more scandalous lifestyle than a Hollywood bad boy.  Once he hit rock bottom, he had to take a job as a pig feeder.  The only thing worse than getting a job as the Director of Pig Slop is the poor guy who didn’t get the job.

One day when the pig slop started looking tasty, the son came to his senses.  Filled with guilt and remorse, he returned to his father.  By this point he must have been looking quite gaunt and scraggly, not to mention in desperate need of a shower.  On the journey home,  he probably imagined his neighbors and family lined along the village streets and taunting him.  Hey, Bones!  Here’s some slop–you want some fries with that? Hahahahaha! Oink, oink! 

The only thing that could save this wretched man was redemption by his father.  His father had every right to be angry and hold a grudge against his son.  Instead, being filled with compassion, he ran to his son and buried the sin with his love and forgiveness.  When the son’s life was hanging by a thread, the father was able to cut the cord that tied him to his pain. 

Sometimes we just need Daddy to save us.

We were eating lunch when I noticed Luke’s loose tooth was starting to bleed.  Against Luke’s wishes, it was time for Daddy to intervene.  Dave had no choice but to end everyone’s agony and cut the cord…er, thread, that held us all in bondage.  It was a bloody scene, but one that brought great deliverance for us all, especially our son.  He now had a huge gap in his mouth, but he smiled with relief from the pain.

It reminded me of all the times in my life when I’ve been hanging on to something painful, and all I needed was the loving touch of my Father to help me let go.  God is ready with his trusty pliers; all we need to do is let Him do His work.

The day after the impromptu tooth surgery, I heard Luke crying in his room. 

“What’s the matter?” I asked. 

Nothing could have prepared me for the squeaky answer from the other side of the door:

“My other front tooth is loose!”

 

Tile Grout Pancakes with No Substitutions

So many of my life lessons have come from mistakes, that at times I feel like a human eraser.  Instead of footprints in the sand, I leave eraser crumbs.  Maybe they were meant to be my legacy, kind of like how Washington has his monument and Jefferson has his memorial. If people actually travel to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, then perhaps they would enjoy my Biggest Pile of Crumbs. 

Of course, my biggest pile of crumbs has actually been in my kitchen.  It seems I have a little trouble sticking to a recipe.  Part of my problem is my annoyance with superfluous directions. 

  •        Take out of oven.  Serve.  Have any autopsies shown that a person actually died waiting by the oven for days, watching and wondering what to do?
  •        Serve and Enjoy.  What else are you supposed to do with it?  Keep it in the pan and despise it?
  •        Serve naked or with whipped cream.  What?  This is a Christian household, for crying out loud.  Oh, the dessert. 

My other problem is ignoring the rule “No substitutions.”  I recently studied the cookbook of a renowned bakery chef, who, in an act of extraordinary benevolence, decided to share her sacred recipes with the world.  She must have attended military boot camp, because in her strict guidelines she warns not to go substituting ingredients, or “If you do, you are asking for trouble.”  With shaking hands, I locked the doors and dimmed the lights, preparing to substitute several of the ingredients in her recipe for “World’s Best Pancakes.”

As I started adding things here and subtracting things there, I recalled a verse that warns of not following the rules of a “recipe”:

Deuteronomy 4:2

Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it,

but keep the commands of the LORD your God…

I was slightly concerned when the pancake batter seemed more suitable for grouting my shower tiles.  After dumping it on the griddle, my concern grew exponentially with the rising of the grout/batter.   Something was clearly wrong, here.  My pancakes were coming to life and resembling a high school chemistry lab experiment. 

My anxiety must have been obvious, for I heard my five-year-old son’s voice behind me:

“God, thank you that these pancakes turn out to be the best pancakes ever.”  Soon all three of the kids were praying for the pancakes. 

Now why hadn’t I thought of that?  I prayed, too, for God to give me guidance to fix this mess.  Or at least to fix the chipped tile grout in the shower.

I was inspired to do the unthinkable.  It was a moment of mind over batter.  I gathered the half-cooked pancakes, squished them all together in a heap, and dropped them in balls on the griddle.  It’s too bad there were no contests that week for “Ugliest Pancakes,” for our fireplace mantel would now be decorated with a fancy blue ribbon. 

I served the “pancakes,”   knowing there was no way my children were going to eat these things.  I sat back and cringed as they took the first bite.

“Mommy, these are the best pancakes ever!”

“Can you make these every day?”

“Can we have more?”

While devouring my “World’s Best Tile Grout Pancakes,” I realized that I had learned my lesson, and not just about following recipes.

Mistakes come when we veer off the path of God’s instructions.  In the words of Cookbook Lady, “If you do, you are asking for trouble.”  Only through prayer can He take our ugly results and turn them into something worthwhile.

Deuteronomy 4:30

When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you…

you will return to the LORD your God and obey him.

For the LORD your God is a merciful God…

Yes, God is truly merciful. Never underestimate the power of a prayed-for pancake.

  • Take out of griddle.
  • Serve with maple syrup and eraser crumbs. 
  •  And no substitutions, please.