Another day at work. I never know exactly what I’ll see and hear, but working in an intimate wear store guarantees plenty of stories and plenty of things to think about.
Today was the latter.
She came into the store clutching one of our brand’s bags, my clue that she merchandise to return. As she approached me I was struck by her appearance. She was quite slender and well-dressed. Her makeup was expertly applied and her face had the smooth, wrinkle-free texture of a 30-year old. The only problem was that the rest of her was obviously in her 60s.
I am certain that her face was the result of high-end products, laser treatments, and botox. She could barely move her facial muscles at all, and it was difficult to understand her speech because she could hardly move her mouth to speak loudly or clearly.
I had to wonder if it was worth it. Is it worth having a face that appears young if you can’t move it to even give your friends a proper smile? Is it worth having a face that appears young if your décolletage, um…doesn’t?
Our culture worships youthfulness. The sad consequence of that is our culture also tends to devalue the beauty and wisdom that come with age. It teaches us to devalue ourselves, should we actually dare into the wrinkle years.
I felt rather sad for the woman. Her appearance spoke of extreme measures to turn back the clock. But the reality is that nobody can stop time. We can hope to age gracefully, but we are going to age. It’s helpful if we’re kind to ourselves during the process.
Some crow’s feet and laugh lines are much better than a face that looks like it might crack if it were forced into a smiling position. Represent your age group well, no matter what group that might be, by doing what you can to appear healthy and happy and excited about life, preferably because you are healthy and happy and excited about life.
Because really…in the end, you’re not fooling anyone.
It’s usually Thursday morning. I know I’m probably going to be fighting the crowds from the Bob Hope Village retirement housing (aka The Village People), delivered by the busload. I know that cranky lady is probably going to be working the meat case and perfecting her customer non-service. I know the deli workers will be moving like molasses in February, because that’s just how they roll. At least most if the time they roll that way with a smile.
But sometimes if I keep the eyes and ears of my heart open and tuned, I’ll come across something new. Such was the case yesterday.
I had finished filling my cart and was making my way to the checkout. I got into line and discovered that all the lanes were full. Not only full, but very full, and the one closest to the front of the line was actually blocking access to the rest of the lanes. Then I noticed that someone had taken down one of the dividers they use to funnel people into line, and as I scanned the checkouts once more, I noted that there actually was an available lane.. Funny…I hadn’t seen that one moments before. I backed up, went through the hole created by the divider, and headed towards that lane. I arrived there to discover that not only was it available, it was completely empty.
At this point my senses were on full alert. Something was up. All the other lanes were full with people waiting in line to unload their groceries onto the belt, and this one was empty? Hmm.
I glanced at the cashier and recognized her as one of the regulars. She’d totaled my groceries many times before. But even at a quick glance I could tell something wasn’t right. She didn’t look bad. It’s just that I am accustomed to a certain lightness and liveliness coming from her, and today it just wasn’t there. She wasn’t unkind or unfriendly in any way, but I could feel the heaviness on her.
I began to unload my groceries and she dutifully scanned them. I wanted to say something but wasn’t sure how to start the conversation since this wasn’t someone with whom I have a relationship. Finally I decided to just dive in.
“Are you ok?” I asked. ”You don’t seem your normally chipper self.”
She didn’t really look up from her work. ”I’m not feeling very well.” She paused a moment and then blurted: ”And my husband is demanding I quit my job.” She practically choked out the last sentence.
“And you don’t want to.”
She shook her head as she glanced at me quickly and then busied herself with her work again.
She went on to say that she hoped that her employers would grant her a leave of absence and that maybe that would be enough to pacify her husband.
“So we’ll pray that you receive favor from your employers and that they’ll gladly extend a leave of absence to you.” And I then went on, doing exactly that, talking to God as if He were standing right there (because He was) and simply speaking a couple of sentences of petition and blessing over her.
She paused, blinked, and then slowly looked at me with her eyes wide open, as if she were noticing for the first time who was standing in front of her register. I watched the realization dawn on her that she was speaking to a sister, and that I would understand things she didn’t feel she could say to most people. Relief flooded her worried eyes.
With a deep breath, she asked me to pray for something else and then told me her pastor’s take on the situation. I listened to her as someone else began loading the grocery belt behind me. We only had seconds left. I assured her that God’s got this and that I would be praying for her. She thanked me several times as I gathered my purse and coupon notebook and turned to follow the bagger out the door.
And just like that, the encounter was over.
It didn’t require extra time. It didn’t require money. It didn’t require getting all weird and making strange pronouncements in King James English. It just required noticing. And then saying something. And then praying a few sentences in a very conversational tone.
I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. After years of five-minute encounters, it’s possible that she will move into a new season of her life and no longer be a potential part of my Thursday morning routine. If so, I’m glad my last interaction with her let her know she was seen and worthy of stopping and listening and caring. She was worthy of love.
Today, or maybe tomorrow, someone who needs to be seen and carried to heaven’s ears will cross your path. Are you willing to bring the kingdom to that spot in that very moment? Do you believe it would be worth the risk?
It’s in your hands.
Chicken Little has been at it again.
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
I’ll admit…things have been rather crazy. The news is full of horrifying reports, and I’m glad I don’t watch/read it much. The news is a hope-killer. Like we need that.
I find it disturbing that the response of many believers is to dejectedly moan that these terrible things are “signs of the times” and we just have to figure out how to cope until Jesus comes back. Scripture says things will get hard, that much is true. But I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t warn us about that so that we could adopt a fatalistic mindset that tells us that we might as well give up because the world is going to hell in a hand basket anyway. I think He just wanted us to be aware so that we wouldn’t get distracted by it. I think He wanted us to have some mile-markers so we’d know things were on track and that it was time to shine brighter than ever.
Scripture isn’t totally clear when Jesus will return. There are a lot of different beliefs about that, and most of them can be backed up with the bible. So what do you do when scripture seems to support opposite theories?
I suggest that it’s an indication that maybe these theories are less important than the things we really know.
Like how much He loves us.
Like what lengths He’ll go to in order to rescue just one ornery sinner.
Like how He intends for the whole world to know that He’s made a way for everyone to be reconciled to Him.
You can judge a tree by its fruit, you know.
If the fruit steals our children’s future and relegates them to mere survival in a dark and devastated world…
If the fruit fuels an attitude that the earth is going to get destroyed any day now so why steward it for the future…
If the fruit destroys the hope of nations who live in darkness and are still waiting for a great light…
Then that is a tree of bad theology and it needs to be uprooted and replaced with a tree of hope.
At the end of the day, the world may seem to be getting darker and crazier. But you know what? He doesn’t stop being good. He doesn’t stop being merciful. He doesn’t stop loving. He just appears more glorious in comparison.
And us? We’re His ambassadors, remember? We are His hands and feet, His body…His bride.
And we don’t get a pass. His goodness is demonstrated through us. His mercy is demonstrated through us. His love and demonstrated through us. We are salt, we are light.
We cannot afford to be cynical, bitter, sarcastic, malicious, or entitled. Like, ever.
The world can’t help but sink into despair. It has no hope without Him. Good thing for the world that He’s still good.
In fact, He’s better than ever.
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” -Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
I want to live in the realm of the impossible.
I want to see what can’t be seen.
I want to hear what can’t be heard.
I want to do what can’t be done.
I want to do it all before breakfast and then again before lunch and twice more before dinner. Then a few times before bed, just for good measure.
And no…I am not kidding.
I choked on my own spit this evening and now I can’t stop coughing. It tickles and burns when I breathe and it’s totally irritating.
I hate it when that happens.
My first confession: I’m a terrible dancer.
I love the idea of dancing. I love music. I love music that makes me want to dance. But the moment I start to move, my inner white girl joins my outer white girl and they somehow get their feet all tangled up and end up looking like they’re either brawling or having a seizure. It’s not that I don’t have rhythm…it’s just that I can’t seem to express it through my body in any sort of reasonable fashion.
My second confession: I wish I didn’t care.
I would like to be the first person on and the last person off the dance floor. I would like to be the person who can’t stand still when music starts playing. I would like to talk to God through dancing. I would like to not be so bad at it that all the joy of the idea of dancing is squelched the moment I actually begin to do it. I would like to simply not care a hoot just how I look.
I would like to be this guy, minus the speedo:
Yesterday found me wandering the aisles of the commissary, looking for satisfying snacks to add to my grocery cart. I’ve been trying to lay off the sugar again since it’s obvious that I’m much healthier without it. Of course, there are no shortage of healthy snacks from which to choose, but that doesn’t mean that I find them all personally satisfying or appealing. If I’m gonna lay aside the sweets, the non-sweets better be pretty spectacular.
Ok, I’ll settle for not cardboard, sticks, or small rocks.
I made my way to the nut section (no wisecracks from the Sparky Nation, now!) and began scanning the shelves. Can I just confess that I don’t really get commercial trail mix? Why do people buy all these pre-made bags of stuff they could throw into a bag all by themselves? It’s not like there’s a recipe, short of “handful of nuts, handful of raisins, handful of m&ms”. If you feel like getting crazy, you add a handful of dried cranberries. Variations on gorp is still gorp, folks. I struggle to be impressed.
But I digress.
Anyway, scanning the shelves. As I mentally rejected the 32 varieties of trail mix available, my eyes landed on a can of cashews. I love cashews. Cashews give me the kind of happiness usually reserved for a bird with a french fry, although truth be told, I’m equally as happy with an actual french fry, and probably more so if copious amounts of ketchup are involved. But at the commissary it was the can of cashews that had my attention.
And that is when I noticed it: The can of whole cashews was $3.00, a really great price. A can of cashew halves and pieces was $4.58. Same sized can.
At the time something about that set off a flare in my head, but my brain wasn’t absorbing it. But my mind kept returning to it. The whole ones were $3.00, and the broken pieces were $4.58.
The whole ones were $3.00, and the broken ones were $4.58.
The whole ones were $3.00, and the broken ones were $4.58.
The broken ones were more expensive…the broken ones cost more…the broken ones were more valuable…
People who think God doesn’t talk to them most likely need to re-tune their receiver. As far as I can tell, He hardly takes a breath, He talks so much. It’s just that I only receive a fraction of what He says because I’m too busy thinking about gorp and wondering why my elbow itches.
In a season where every turn has left me face to face with my own brokenness, I’ve at times become discouraged by the sheer magnitude of fixing I require. The cracks, the scrapes, the chipped edges and flaking paint and missing handles…such a humble state compared to the loftier (in my opinion) condition of being flawless and shiny and shellacked and burnished to a gleam.
But He says that the broken ones are more valuable, and He put His Son on the line to prove it.
The sick don’t need a doctor. The whole don’t need glue. The found don’t need a rescue. The broken ones cost more because they are more valuable.
I bought the can of whole cashews, though. Fiscal responsibility and whatnot.