Grapes, Apples and French Fries – Words of Grace


I wondered about the word, “grapes.”

I was puzzled by the word, “apples.”

However, when the words “French fries” appeared, my puzzlement and wonderings were immediately eclipsed by suspicion.

There is a familiar idiom that reads, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Well, what happens when I realize that we have reached the third generational act of being made the fool?

Who was responsible for this tom-foolery of “grapes, apples, and French fries?”

I won’t beat around the bush. It was Jake.

Once again, we had another “I’m-not-making-this-up” moment of truth in our house.

Jake had just handed me his list of weekly spelling words. Each week, Jake and Caleb make a 15 word selection from their spelling books which contain all of the words they are required to learn this year in our little Happy Blue School.

Three weeks ago, the word “grapes” appeared on his 15 word list. I honestly was surprised to see the word because Jake already knows how to spell it. Yet, I decided to let it go and labeled the word ‘grapes’ as just one of those contextual words that Jake needed to learn how to spell. In addition, the truth of the matter was that both Jake and Caleb do not like pre-tests. Even if they already know how to spell a word, because the word is on the list, they need to keep it there. They won’t pretest themselves. They want to leave every word on their lists. So, that is what I did with the word ‘grapes.’ We left it there.

Last week, Jake came up to me again. This time, embedded in his 15 word spelling list was the word, ‘apples.’

I made note of the word and said, “Jake, really? Apples? Apples cannot possibly be on your list?”

Jake responded, “Yep! It’s on my list.”

Believing the little (actually, he’s not so little anymore) deceiver, I let it go again! Shame on me!

Then this morning, Jake approached me one.more.time.

This time the two words listed among his spelling words were “French fries.”

“French fries?!” I exclaimed.  “French fries?!” Jake, there is no possible way that French fries is listed in your spelling book.”

Jake smiled gleefully and replied, “Yes, they are, Mom! Just take a look!”

I opened his spelling book, and true to his word, the words ‘French fries’ were hand-written over one of his spelling words. I looked over the page and discovered the words ‘grapes’ and ‘apples’ also written in other spaces where original spelling words had once been printed.

“Jake,” I enquired. “What is going on here? Why are you writing in your own spelling words each week?”

My sweet and tender-hearted boy replied, “Mom, I didn’t want to learn those words that were there because they are mean words.”

“What?” I asked. I knew from experience with Jake, that my son would have a reason for his actions. Rather than make an assumption, I wanted to understand why Jake would erase only one word per week and replace it with one of his favorite foods.

“Look, Mom,” Jake persisted. “The words I covered over are mean words. They aren’t nice.”

I surveyed the letter fragments left underneath Jake’s hand-printed ‘grapes,”apples,’ and ‘French Fries.’ The letter remnant spelled out ‘furious,’ ‘vicious,’ and ‘frustrated.’

Jake was right.

‘Grapes,’ ‘apples,’ and ‘French fries’ garner a far more positive feeling tone than the three words he had erased and attempted to cover. Favorite foods have a way of making us feel good, don’t they? Jake wasn’t necessarily trying to get out of doing his spelling work. Instead, Jake had self-selected words that made him feel happy and perhaps words that he wanted to be associated with in his life.

As some of you may know, I am reading Romans 12 once a day for 2016. As I reflected on Jake’s word choice, these words from Romans 12 came to mind:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. New International Version, Romans 12:9

The Message records these words another way:

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.

Now, Jake wasn’t necessarily thinking about loving from the center of who he is when he replaced his spelling words. Yet, what Jake was doing was acknowledging that the words ‘furious,’ ‘vicious,’ and ‘frustrated’ were words that could be used against others or perhaps even against oneself. He didn’t like them. He didn’t want to learn them. Jake consciously made the decision to disassociate himself from words that symbolized harm.



Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all made a similar, conscious choice?

To choose words that made us happy.

To choose words that offered kindness.

To choose words that go beyond pretense and politeness.

To choose words that inspire people to become better people.

To choose words that express compassion.

To choose words that honor others in sincere, heartfelt ways.

In light of all that is happening in this world and what is choosing to be said, what if we chose to erase some of those furious, vicious and frustrating words and replaced them with grapes, apples and French fries and other feel good words of grace.

Jake did it.

Can’t we do the same?

6 thoughts on “Grapes, Apples and French Fries – Words of Grace

  1. It’s a cute story! 😀

    Personally, I think there’s room for both. There are definitely times when we can and should look to project goodness and kindness in the world. But there are also times for voicing anger and outrage. Injustice, oppression, violence, and poverty are things that should make us angry. These things drive us and others around us to action. I wouldn’t choose to buy only fair-trade sugar if I hadn’t read someone’s outraged article about the exploitation and horrific oppression and rampant death of sugar cane workers in South America. I wouldn’t be fighting to revise my school’s sexual harassment policy if I hadn’t heard from many indignant victims sharing their experiences of harassment. I wouldn’t be an advocate for transgender youth if I hadn’t heard the pained and angry cries of so many abused children on the verge of giving up. And I wouldn’t have been able to rescue myself from my own abusive situation if I hadn’t finally realized that I have a RIGHT to be angry about my mistreatment and I don’t have to accept it with a smile on my face.

    Being furious, being vicious, being frustrated… these are all important too. Maybe Jake should be encouraged to consider when it’s time for french fries and when it’s time to be angry. 😀 Ah, who are we kidding… it’s always time for french fries, whether we’re angry or not.

    1. Hi Evan, thanks for the thoughts! I appreciate your view point and advocacy of others.

      My point with this blog post was to emphasize that Jake is choosing to look for the ‘good and positive’ rather than be associated with the negative. I appreciate that we need to be made aware of issues. However, my bone of contention is how we are choosing to get this information out. In my humble opinion, there is too much anger out there. As I type, there are protesters near me shutting down the roadways and setting alight a gas station in anger – why? There is an election coming up here soon and this action will become more and more common as the protesters seek attention for what they want from the various political parties who are vying for their vote. I am not saying that people do not have a right to be angry. Of course people do – you do. What I am saying is that there is a tendency at times (especially in my country of residence) to have that anger grow out of control and turn to vengeance.

      I write to encourage. That’s my purpose. I am attempting to raise my sons to be encouragers too. I’ll keep at that because a word of hope is appreciated and needed – now more than ever.

      1. Oh, I don’t mean to disagree with your post here. I think there is a place both for peace and anger. I often focus more on the latter, you on the former. We are both needed to make a better world. I am just adding my contribution to the whole. 🙂

      2. Thanks, Evan. I am glad you jump in and say what you are thinking! I agree that different points of view make a richer conversation.

        I do think though, that at this particular time in our history, the printed media word tends to be more negative and angry than positive and uplifting. Would you agree – or do you think I have a biased opinion?

      3. I agree with you; I don’t think this is biased. Media often likes to focus on negative things in order to stir people up, often without cause. It’s a problem especially when it plays on our biases and baser nature. That’s not to say that I think negative media coverage is necessarily always a bad thing, but I do think that it often tries to play people needlessly against each other instead of drawing attention to problems and highlighting meaningful solutions. I think there is an important line to walk between expressing anger in order to inspire change, vs. expressing anger in order to inspire violence and hatred. Similarly, there is an important line between expressing encouragement in order to uplift, vs. expressing a false peace in order to hide problems and violence that should be addressed. Maturity and justice is being able to discern both of these things.

        I should also add that I think that anger can be paired with encouragement. For example, I think of the old gospel song of the civil rights movement “We Shall Overcome.” I feel a profound anger and cry for justice in those words, but also a profound encouragement and healing. Some of the most healing and encouraging things I have written for myself were laced with obscenities and anger, but oh they were freeing and they helped me feel hope and joy again. There is sometimes great healing and encouragement in being able to express anger, especially when you come from a culture (like the Christian culture of America) which attempts to stifle and demonize negative emotions, often even labeling anger or expressions of anger as a sin. I guess that’s why I’m so vocal in embracing it now. 🙂 Happy to hear any thoughts!

  2. Hi Evan,

    Thanks, once again!

    I agree, that seeking justice and advocating for justice for those who have been and are being abused, neglected, trafficked, etc. is critical. And honestly, I agree that the mainstream Christian voice is one that has lost its way. Fear and anger is what others hear and see more than just about anything else. In addition, many Christians – not all of them of course – are so concerned with being safe and protecting themselves that they are blind and ignorant to the significant needs of the world and even of their own next door neighbor. There isn’t a lot of encouragement out there – at least it’s been hard for me to see it. So, as I said, that’s why I write what I do. It is my contention that if Believers took stock of who they really are – followers of Christ and who have Christ dwelling within them – they would be much more hopeful, much more loving, and much more impactful in their sphere of influence. Honestly, in my humble opinion, there’s just a ton of striving going on to ‘be good’ and to self manage the sin areas of life, and way too much projection of junk onto others. All of which, wears everybody out.

    Anger does have a place. As you may guess, I don’t camp in anger much. However, one of my assignments from my counselor years and years ago, was to write about all of the offenses that had been done against me and allow myself to feel angry about each and every one. I had buried those feelings. For my health and well being, I needed to address these feelings and then ultimately release my anger. Probably similar to the joy and healing you felt. So yes, anger has a purpose.

    Well, that’s what I have for today!

    Have a great weekend, unless there’s more you want to dialogue about….:)

    Blessings always,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close