I enjoy grocery shopping. I enjoy the entire experience. Yes, having a shopping list, coupon box, reusable totes (I get $.05 back on each one I use - yesss!), no pressure on time and an empty cart waiting for treasures, is probably one of the most relaxing outings for me.
Such was one chilly Tuesday night in December after I left my women’s bible study group. I had a short list that would be finished in about twenty minutes and I had forty-five until closing time. Score!
Oh if I only knew the “sweet”
argument conversation I would have with God at checkout in a grocery store, I just may have used up my minutes strolling up and down those aisles. But that would be futile, wouldn’t it? His plans are never thwarted. Just wish His timing wasn’t so comical…but He ended up blessing it.
In order to appreciate the “situation” I was about to be placed in, I need to paint a picture of my shopping cart – the unfolding comic strip.
What you don’t know is that it was just two days away from a baking project I was getting ready to undertake. Our women’s ministry was gathering at three locations on three different days to package cookies for our respective community fire houses, police stations, schools and shelter. So, my short list was in fact short but it was butter, eggs, milk, butter, gingerbread mixes, sugar, butter, flour and did I mention butter?
I try to eat healthy so I usually don’t mind what I have in my cart but you would think I would have at least put some rice cakes or carrot sticks in there. But nooooo. I think God kept that suggestion behind His tight loving grin just so He could see me
squirm step out in faith.
Back to unloading all that butter. (Lucky for me there was nobody behind me…yet.)
Just as I was thinking about all the cookies I would be baking and the other women that would be baking as well, AND joyfully imagining all the happy faces of those receiving the cookies, I felt a familiar voice speak to my spirit while I was still unloading.
“Ask her those nine little words.”
Gasp. Gulp. Freeze. Establish no eye contact. Hum. HUM SOMETHING!
“God? Are you KIDDING me? NO. Check out lady = small talk. No time for anything deep. No time. Nope. Not doing it. No way.” (Humming begins.)
Now this is where the brilliance of no carrot sticks comes into play.
“Asking her might just distract her from all that…butter. Imagine what she must be thinking.”
Eyes bulge. Nuts! Not fair! Rotten move!
“She’s starting to scan your items. Now would be a good time. I’ve got the first task done. Look. Her name is on her tag. Go on. Look.”
I will admit. I was squirming much more than when I asked Hugo just a couple of weeks prior. My problem was not talking to Stephanie or being polite enough to ask her how her day was going. I do always make an attempt to be pleasant to those I encounter at businesses and at the very minimum try to use their name at least once. My problem was beyond saying grace over a soup and sandwich and including a stranger in that prayer. How was I to tell Stephanie I wanted to know her request and I would pray for her? I just didn’t want to go deeper than small talk with her.
Thankfully it was almost closing time and nobody was behind me in line. So I planned what I would say in my mind. I would make a joke of all the…butter…and mention the cookies and mention church and our women and the community…and uh, oh. All that time planning and Stephanie scanning, now there were two men in line. Great! Now THEY would hear me too!
Before I knew it, Stephanie was giving me my total and my joke came out something like this, “Oh, the holidays and cookies.” ...errrch...WHAT?! That was the best I could come up with?! So much for being eloquent.
It was now or never. Where is that EASY button when you need it!
“Stephanie, I want to let you know something. At the end of the day I pray over experiences God has placed in my path and I was wondering if it would be okay to include you. How can I ask God to bless you today?”
Now if you’re thinking that came out beautifully, it didn’t. I was fumbling with my wallet and my mittens that were falling on the floor while my body language was saying, “Really. It’s ok if you ignore me.” And by the look on the gentlemen’s faces waiting in line…a riot was getting ready to ensue or that might have just been my perception.
What actually happened was more beautiful than Stephanie’s long blonde curly locks or all those happy faces I was imagining just moments earlier. She paused, turned to me, stood up straight, face lit up and with such eagerness said:
“Wow! I almost forgot it was Christmastime. Yes you can ask for me. I have three jobs I’ve applied for and would love to get one. Thank you! Thank you for asking!”
I was humbled by her response and to think I was arguing with God about even asking her those nine little words. I kept thinking, “How does one forget Christmas when you are surrounded by red and green decorations, and Santa, and reindeer, and Frosty and…?” Oh, wow.
Might that be what we all sometimes do? We get so busy in our surroundings that we forget our one simple purpose – to love God and love others. Are we so busy “doing” that we forget the Being? Christ was never in a rush to go deeper. He took time for relationships…even if she was just the check out lady scanning butter for the cookies you are baking for everyone else.
Thank you Stephanie for making me stop in my tracks and look richly into your eyes. I went home and prayed for you that cold night, outside, under a clear starlit black sky and I have never felt the warmth I felt that night. I offered up your request to our Father of Christmas and all things good, to the One who gave you name to be placed on tag. I have seen your pretty face dancing in my mind so often since that day. My experience with you has blessed and enriched my thoughts every time I walk into Giant and I am so grateful…for butter :)
Cookies. Hmmm...how sweet the process can be.
Looking upwards, I still see Him grinning.
Yes, Lord. You are wise and wonderful and I thank You.
Stay tuned. I had another encounter with Stephanie a few weeks later…