My adventure started out as a routine trip to Aldi during Gracie’s dance class. Because the littles were at home napping while Ross did his schoolwork, I was driving my shopping cart solo. I whizzed through the little store, systematically grabbing groceries, throwing them in the cart and checking them off my list. In less than 15 minutes, I was finished and standing in the checkout lane. It’s amazing how fast I can shop when I don’t have Georgia poking her finger into my produce, Amber constantly asking if we can go to Harris Teeter (because they have cookies, Mommy!), Gracie being the little mommy to both of them while simultaneously trying to read my chicken scratch grocery list, and Ross asking me what HFCS is and why we don’t want it in our food.
I guess everyone had decided it was a good day to buy groceries because the store was busy. I had already seen two other moms whose daughters were in dance class too. The line to checkout went halfway to frozen foods. I pulled out my smart phone (instant entertainment while waiting!) and tried to avoid looking at the big box of Snicker bars calling my name from the nearby empty checkout lane. And then I saw the flowers.
I love fresh flowers. I think they make a house look so fresh and pretty. It’s really one of the few really girly things about me, this love I have for a fresh bouquet in a pretty vase – a thing of beauty in the middle of the chaos that is my kitchen. I’m also not above buying them myself instead of pouting and waiting for Michael to be inspired to bring them home. I wandered over to the floral display and looked past the daisies and carnations, eyeing my prize. The first sign of spring in my book is tulip bouquets and here they were, brightening up their corner of the dingy little grocery store. And they were on sale! Only $3 for a little spot of sunshine. I chose some pale pink blooms and went back to waiting in line.
All of a sudden I heard the one sound you can never truly get out of a store without hearing at least once – a wailing child. Her mama was trying her best to stay calm and comfort her preschooler, fully and uncomfortably aware that all eyes were now on her. Her daughter had decided to help mommy put the groceries onto the conveyor belt and dropped her jar of pickles. Glass shattered, pickle juice oozed, girl wailed and mama was somehow calm through it all. The cashier helped her take her groceries to the next lane, voided her order and started over scanning everything. Meanwhile, the lady in line behind the wailing little girl high-tailed it to the pickle section in the back of the store, grabbed a new jar and thrust it toward the mama. But the little girl was well past hysterical by now and even baby kosher dills wouldn’t console her. The mama kept repeating “It’s ok, almost done, the pickles are in the cart now.” I wasn’t sure if she was talking to the girl or to herself but the stress of the whole situation was all over her face.
Finally I paid for my groceries and went to bag them on the counter by the door. There was the same little girl, still sniffling and whining about her pickles on the floor. And there was that mama, still repeating the same phrase, shoving groceries into bags as fast as she could. We both went to our minivans and proceeded to unload the groceries from cart to car, all while the girl continued to whimper and cry about her precious pickles. This child could test the patience of Job, but this mama somehow remained calm. As I put the last bag in the car and reached for my beautiful tulips, I felt the Lord nudge me. “Those tulips would really encourage that stressed out mama.” Really Lord?? My tulips, my little bit of sunshine – You want me to give it away? I don’t even know her Lord! She’s gonna think I’m crazy, giving flowers to a stranger. “You want to live life loud don’t you? Step outside your comfort zone? What about those prayers for boldness? Do you really want it? Show me.”
I returned my cart to the corral and stood there holding the tulips, feeling like a fool, just standing there waiting on the mama to return her own cart. But when she finally walked up, courage surged up in my heart and I couldn’t give her the flowers fast enough. “I want to give you a gift,” I blurted out. I walked up to her and pushed the tulips into her hands. “Sometimes, us mamas have really hard days and we just need someone to encourage us and let us know we are doing a good job. I’m amazed at your patience with your daughter. You’re doing a great job.” Before I knew what was happening, I had my arm around her shoulder and I was hugging this stranger, this fellow mama, in the middle of the parking lot while she held my tulips. I looked at her and saw tears in her eyes. “Thank you so much. I saw these in the store and I thought they were so pretty,” she said. And then she stunned me. “You must have really been listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice.”
And now the tears are in my eyes too. I have no way of knowing what that mama is going through or how those simple flowers will impact her life, if they do at all. But the God who hears my prayers asking for boldness in sharing Him with others is the same God who knows the needs of a mama with a crying preschooler and a broken pickle jar. It was all I could do to walk back to my van and not run into the store to buy every bouquet they had, just to give them away to other mamas. We need to remember we aren’t alone. Other mamas struggle with sleep deprivation and potty training and moody preteens and husbands with long work hours. In the midst of our struggles, we can look up and see those around us who are struggling too. Then we can reach out (maybe with some flowers in hand) and remind them they aren’t alone either. We can spread the little bit of sunshine. This praying for boldness, this desire to live life loud for Jesus, is pushing me and stretching me. I never know what adventure will come next. But I’ve had a taste of the excitement and joy that comes when I push past the fear of being a fool and I want more!!
Comments make my day! Let’s share our adventures together – whether it’s a spiritual adventure like my grocery store experience, or something new you are daring to try. I want to cheer you on!