Grace in the Grocery Aisle

Woman in Grocery StoreI hate grocery shopping.  Hate is a strong word.  Do I really hate grocery shopping?  Let me think about it . . . YES.

I don’t know what it is about grocery shopping that I deplore.  Maybe it’s figuring out menus, lists, etc.  Maybe it’s the wearisome monotony of walking the same aisles week after week.   Maybe it’s how it invades my valuable Saturday afternoons. Whatever it is . . . I disdain it.

One afternoon I headed off to the grocery store with a list in my hand and an over-sized, pity-party, life-is-miserable attitude in my heart.  I was exhausted, ticked off, and ready to quit.  I was sick and tired of taking care of everyone else, but never having time for me.  Me.  Me.  Me.

My frustration did not abate as I shopped.  It grew.  That grocery shopping trip was the last straw.  As I angrily stomped down the aisles and threw food into my overflowing shopping cart, defiant complaints overflowed my heart.  I’m so exhausted.  I never get a break.  There’s no end in sight.  There’s no way I can do all that my family needs me to do.  I have nothing left to give.  I can’t wait for the day when all this is over.

Then it happened.  Grace struck.

My kind and ever-patient Savior took me by the scruff of my stiff neck and directed my attention toward someone other than myself.  As I approached the check-out stand, I saw an elderly woman in her eighties.  She inched along slowly as if each step was painful.  Her cardigan sweater and elastic-waist pants hung loosely on her bent frame.  Her shopping cart served as her support, and wrinkles and age spots were visible from a distance.  But, what really caught my attention was the contents of her cart.

There wasn’t much.  Some lunch meat and a cheap loaf of bread.  A couple apples in a plastic bag.  A single quart of milk.  A small box of cookies.  That was it.

I stared at her cart and then looked at mine.  It takes a lot to feed a family of five, and the contrast couldn’t have been greater.  My shopping cart screamed to others that my house was full.  Her cart whispered to me that it would not always be this way.  Before me stood a woman who I imagined once pushed a cart like mine, and in an instant I realized that someday I would push a cart like hers.

My anger and discontent immediately dissipated and were replaced with tears of conviction.  This never-ending work and toil is not because of a curse, but because of a blessing!  I have children in my home, but one day they will be gone.  They will have moved on, and oh, how I will long for the days of a full shopping cart.

Proverbs 14:4 reads, “Where there are no oxen the stable is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”  If a farmer does not have oxen, he will have a sweet-smelling and orderly stable, but he will not have the benefits the oxen bring.  If I didn’t have children, my life would also be sweet-smelling and orderly, but I would not have the blessed, full life they bring.

Weary mother, it was God’s grace in the grocery aisle that arrested my attention and reminded me that my sacrificial life as a mother is a gift—not just to my children, but to me.

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127:3-5

 

God in the Deep: Jonah 2

A few nights ago, a friend called for some advice regarding her teenage daughter’s misbehavior.  We discussed how my friend could address her daughter’s heart issues and which natural consequences could be appropriate for the situation.  Near the end of the conversation, my friend commented on how she was realizing she shouldn’t be angry with her daughter, but rather she needed to see this as an opportunity to discipline, or train, her teen with the intention of teaching her daughter the right way to go.  Compassion trumped frustration.

Jonah knew that the Lord disciplines those He loves in order to teach and correct the wayward.  God told Jonah to go to Ninevah.  Jonah refused.  God sent a storm and a large fish to redirect Jonah.  Jonah then obeyed.  Jonah, a very real man with a very real experience,  found himself in the deep under the discipline of the Lord:

“For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me.  All your breakers and billows passed over me.  So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. . .’  Water encompassed me to the point of death.  The great deep engulfed me.  Weeds were wrapped around my heard.  I descended to the roots of the mountains.  The earth with its bars was around me forever” (Jonah 2: 3-6).

Have you ever been able to describe yourself like that?  I have.  It sure isn’t pretty . . . in despair, in the dark, in the deep.  But, in that very place, God is found.  Jonah declared,

“I called out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me.  I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice . . . But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. . . Salvation is from the Lord” (Jonah 2: 2,6,9).

God may have you in the deep.  He may be correcting you, training you, redirecting you.  But, He has taken you there, so you will find Him there.  Like Jonah, will you say,“While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple” (Jonah 2:7)?  The discipline of His child is not a curse, it is a mercy;  He knows the direction you have been going, and He knows a better way.  It is His kindness that leads you in the way you should go, because although “all discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

Peace.  Righteousness.  Deep down, dear Christian, isn’t that what you want?

The Lord disciplines, and He also delivers.  Call out to the Lord for help, humble yourself before Him, and obey.  Like Jonah, you will find Him—even in the deep.

A Few Good Books for Our Children

We teach our children so many things . . . how to walk, tie shoes, read, ride a bike, clean their rooms, chew with their mouths closed, wrap presents, make friends, drive, etc., etc.  The list goes on and on.  But, the most important thing we can pass on to our children is a knowledge and love for the Lord, informed by the full counsel of God–the Bible.

We teach our children by example, but we also teach them with verbal instruction.  Over the years, other moms have asked me which books I recommend to help them teach their children about the Lord and His Word.  Of course, I recommend reading the Bible directly to children first and foremost, but there are a few books that our family has found to be favorites for explaining the truths of Scripture to our children.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a simple (not exhaustive) list of books that we have found especially helpful and enjoyable to our family over the years.  May God bless your obedience to Him as you raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.