Settling herself into the ripped naugahyde chair, Verna reached for the phone. She delighted in hearing Malcolm’s voice. It had been too long since their last visit.
“Hello, Son!” Verna’s voice was rich with affection, “How have you been?”
“Oh, not bad, Mama – it’s been a good month.”
“I’m so glad to hear that!”
Pleasantries were exchanged. Verna told Malcolm about the blooms on her rosebush and how the garden was fairing (her watermelons and lettuce had done well, but if they didn’t get some rain soon, she feared for the tomatoes).
“And you have a new second cousin, now,” Verna announced, “Your cousin, Mazy, had had a little girl – her third, you know – last Tuesday. A chunk, too – weighed nearly eleven pounds, she did!”
Malcolm laughed and commented, “I bet those sisters of hers are lovin’ on her somethin’ fierce.”
“Oh, they are,” Verna agreed, “And you should see Herman – Mazy’s husband, you know – you’d think he never had a baby girl before, the way he’s carrying on!”
From family matters to church events, the conversation continued. Verna told Malcolm about the recent church potluck where Sister Agnes – who was a hundred if she was a day – had brought the most vile-tasting biscuits.
“I tried to tell her – I said, ‘Sister Agnes, I think you put baking soda instead of baking powder in these biscuits!’ But she said to me, ‘Verna Mitchell, I’ve been making biscuits since before your daddy was a twinkle in his daddy’s eye and I think I know better than to use baking soda in baking powder biscuits!’”
Malcolm guffawed as his mother’s stories brought him home once again.
“Oh, and you’ll never guess what,” Verna began,
“What’s that, Mama?”
“You remember Tommy Hendricks down the street, right?”
“Um, hmm,” Malcolm nodded.
“Well,” Verna continued, “He went and got himself a basketball scholarship to college! What do you think about that?”
“Little Tommy – the runt?” exclaimed Malcolm.
“Oh, he’s no ‘runt,’ anymore!” Verna exclaimed, “That boy shot up past his father, he did. Why his mama told me that he’s over six feet, five inches now!”
Malcolm whistled, “I never would have expected that outta that boy!”
Verna smiled. “Well, that’s the funny thing about expectations, I guess.”
Pensively, she added, “Life often turns out a lot different than what you expect it’s going to.”
There was silence on both ends of the line.
Malcolm said quietly, “I know you had different expectations for my life, Mama.”
“Well, that’s true, Son,” Verna answered, “But sometimes, life, and the choices we make have a way of changing those expectations.”
She paused, and then her voice rose a notch as she changed the direction of the conversation. “Say, Son, how many did you say you had at that last Bible study you led?”
Malcolm replied excitedly, “We had twenty – seven show up. God sure is working, Mama! We’re in the book of James now and I couldn’t believe the fellas that wanted to stick around afterwards and talk about it even longer!”
“Praise Jesus! God is using you to reach these men! I’m just so proud of you and the work that God is doing through you!”
Animated, mother and son rejoiced together over the things of the Lord. But finally, reluctantly, they bid each other farewell and ended their call.
For a few minutes, Verna fingered the ripped chair cover and thought about the pleasing conversation she had just enjoyed. She thought about what Malcolm had said about expectations. He was right. Her expectations for his life had changed dramatically. But God wasn’t finished yet – not by a long shot!
Verna hoisted herself out of the chair, walked down the hallway, and passed through the double-bolted, secure, steel doors of the state penitentiary where her son, Malcolm, would remain the rest of his life, paying for a crime impulsively committed during his youth.
Yes, Verna thought, as she shuffled down the walkway, to the bus stop, expectations were indeed a funny thing. The great expectations she’d had for Malcolm hadn’t happened. But God’s grace had. In the midst of the steel jungle that he now called home, God had given her son a ministry beyond any hopes Verna had ever nurtured.
Squealing, the bus rocked to a slow stop and Verna stepped onto it, flashing her monthly pass and a brilliant smile at the driver. Sometimes, she thought, as she lowered herself into a seat, expectations weren’t just funny.
They were plain wonderful.
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