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Mary Full of Grace

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Three years ago I was saved. Some people think getting saved means being in church, jumping around, and catching the Holy Ghost. But to me, being saved is opening your Bible, reading a prayer, and believing in your heart that Jesus died so you could live. Ever since I started believing that, my life's been better.

Everything changed for me around the time Aaliyah passed. I can't explain it, but I felt as if it was supposed to be me in that plane. I was hurt when that girl died. The really strange part was that I was not that close to Aaliyah; I'd met her a few times, and I saw her a couple of weeks before the crash. I admired how beautiful she was, and I told Aaliyah I loved her. I just poured out my heart, and then she ends up dead. That really was heavy on my heart.

But Aaliyah didn't die in vain because she saved me. Her death bothered me so much that I just started leaning closer to God, asking, Father, what do I need to do? And that was when I stopped drinking. That night I quit. I began to see that I had been hanging out with the wrong people. Nobody around me loved me or cared for me. Somebody actually told me, "Girl, you young. It's okay to drink and sleep around." I'll never forget that. That's where my life was, spinning out of control-drinking and drugging, staying up for days and days and days. The way I was living I should have been dead. But Christ was with me. He's been watching over me the whole time.

Dialing Down the Heat

Now that I'm saved, I'm a brand-new person. I've been married to Kendu for almost two years. Before I was with him I didn't like men at all. I despised them for how badly they had treated my mother and for what they do to women all over the world. But even though I hated them, deep down I now know I was part of the problem. So I prayed for God to show me my faults, show me when I'm prideful, jealous, hateful. Now I understand it's my responsibility to deal with my issues and not blame someone else because I'm in denial or too full of pride to say I'm wrong. When my husband first told me that, I flipped a table over, I was so heated. But it dawned on me that I had always been "You, you, you, you!" Okay, we know about you, but what am I going to do about me?

I've learned that if your man isn't doing right, the only way to change things is for you to do something different. Instead of nagging him about everything, you be cool. Then when it's time to address him-you stand firm and don't play around. But now you have room to talk because you haven't been going crazy in his face the whole time. You change and he'll watch you change. And maybe one day he'll give it up.

I really had to pull it back because my anger can be ferocious. My temper was out of control. I've come a long way. I've learned to control my anger and my mouth, to be submissive. I know submissive sounds like "Lie down and let him walk all over you." That's not what I mean. It's about understanding that if you love somebody, no matter how powerful you are, you'll have to bend. I prayed to God to help me do that. He showed me that as much as I want to have the last word, as bad as I want to be right, sometimes I have to walk away from an argument. But if the man's intelligent, he'll say, "You're right." I had to learn to trust that.

When I was little, I'd go to Georgia to visit my Aunt Laura Bell every summer. She was my father's sister. My mother was a beautiful woman, but she was so tormented by how my father had treated her that she couldn't really nurture us. But Aunt Laura Bell did. She blew on our stomachs, kissed our faces, and told us we were beautiful. After Aunt Laura Bell passed away about seven years ago, God gave me that love through my husband. Kendu hugs and kisses me and talks sweetly. I'm enjoying that as a woman for the first time.

To read the entire article, "Mary Full of Grace," pick up the September issue of ESSENCE.

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