By Crystal Tingle
It seems like these days, I am in the grocery store at least once a day…and by the way, this has nothing to do with this article yet and it has EVERYTHING to do with it. It’s important for me to ramble a bit for background, so just hang with me on the rabbit trail. I remember a time when I had a weekly grocery and meal plan and did once-a-week shopping. Once, I even did a monthly meal plan and bought items that I could in bulk and spent the entire day separating, storing, freezing, etc. Notice I said ONCE! That wore me slap out. And on top of that I still had to go back to the dreaded store to pick up perishables that I couldn’t buy for the month like vegetables and fruit. That never happened again. But even recently, I can’t even get a weekly plan wrapped around my brain. It seems that I am living day-by-day dousing the flames of the biggest fire of the hour which usually puts scrambling for dinner ideas for that night and school lunches for the next day in the afternoon flames. I mean, as a mom, there is ALWAYS something when you have three kids, a husband, a dog, a household to run, work, laundry….LAUNDRY… Child #2 forgot something at home that he needs for school while Child #3 mentions last-minute school project needs…the list goes on and on. I need about four more daylight hours to get things done! It’s at times mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting! Often, deep sighs resonate from my mouth that I’m often not even aware are happening until my husband asks, “What’s wrong?”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Him: “You just sighed really hard.”
Me: “I did?”
But on this particular day dragging my fire hose, I entered the line to check out before running home and throwing a meal together and ran into a friend that I haven’t seen in a long while. We exchanged cordials:
Her: “How are you?”
Me: “I’m great but just been super busy.”
Her: “I know, right? Same here.”
That’s not verbatim, but it went similar. Then we spoke of our kids briefly as the sweet checkout lady scanned my friend’s groceries. We continued to chat in terms of the kids’ schedules and keeping up with them and how overwhelming it is at times, and then we said our goodbyes and good seeing you. At that point, the checkout lady engaged in conversation with me and spoke of (all with a positive and sympathetic tone) how she raised her children as a single mom and understands how stressful it can be, as well as overwhelming, when you find yourself needing to be in two places at the same time, like being at work and needing to bring the kids to school activities, with no help. When she finished and I paid, she said to me with genuine sincerity and empathy, “Have a good day and I really hope things get better for you soon.” And… it hit me! Did I make my life sound that bad? Do I really feel that way? Are things that overwhelming? It stopped me dead in my tracks and I looked back at her and all I could say was, “Thank you. Life is good!”
I am not sure why those are the words I choose to reply with. Quiet honestly, a barrage of thoughts and emotions flooded my mind and heart all at once, and I truly felt that I spoke what I should be feeling, but I realized in that moment they were not the same. Why had I projected such discontent and frustration? I found myself at a loss for words. I am married with a husband who helps out and works hard to provide for us, three healthy and beautiful children who need a mom to do what moms are supposed to do, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, great friends and the luxury to be a stay-at-home mom. What in the world do I have to complain about and why should I feel so overwhelmed? Are my feelings unjustified? Here is this sweet lady working as a cashier in a grocery store, a single mom who has had her share of heartache and trials with no one to share the burden with, and yet offers me words of condolence and encouragement. I had never felt more ashamed. I actually cried when I got in my car. Because you know what …Life IS good! I am not saying this based on material comparisons to her. I don’t know really anything beyond what she said in that five-minute conversation. I just know that she was the richer one! The precious jewels that she had amassed were from her attitude and gratitude and in her humility, the trinity for joy! She probably could have shut me down quick and said, “Oh, suck it up sister and quit complaining!” But she didn’t. Full of compassion, she expressed her heartfelt sentiments.
So am I just a spoiled brat and never satisfied? My circumstances are real. My challenges are tangible. I have a child or two with special needs, and that requires a bit more at times which is why I actually do not work. I have a couple of newer health issues that hold me back occasionally from being as productive as I would like, BUT…. when I count the things I have to be grateful for…it FAR outweighs the overwhelming components. This is where the trail ends…
You see, my epiphany in that moment before walking out the door was that truly Life is good! No matter what! Life, breath and the freedom we have to allow circumstances or trials to define us OR NOT is still a choice we own. And I was reminded while I was sitting in my car afterward of what my pastor recently said… that often our circumstances DO warrant or justify a bad day or season…but more times than not it’s our attitude about it that changes us…even when it can’t change our circumstances. We can be the victim or be the victor over our attitude despite our circumstances!
This lady on this day at that moment was walking in victory despite anything that was happening or had happened to her or around her. She chose that day to be grateful and to fly higher than her circumstances. She was the victor and truly because of her attitude she impacted me! That’s where and when you see the fruit, joy and victory you can walk in despite the craziness…when you can say, “Don’t look at all of this surrounding us, just look at me. Hear what I am saying. It’s going to be okay…LIFE IS GOOD!”