To The Woman Who Saw Me At ALDI Today

I was feverishly chucking my groceries onto the conveyor belt today at ALDI, while my one-month-old son was screaming in-stereo. (If you are an ALDI shopper, you know how insanely fast the cashiers scan your items.) I felt everyone’s eyes behind me as I was holding the binky in my son’s mouth with one hand, and grasping at my groceries with the other.

My 4-year-old daughter was trying to “help” me by reaching into the shopping cart (except that she’s too short to reach the groceries, but so fiercely determined, that she was balancing on the edge of the cart on her stomach, and almost falling head first into the cart.) “Let Mommy do it!” I kept saying as she was grabbing all the glass jars of salsa and marinara sauce, and nearly dropping them onto the floor.

Meanwhile, my son continued screaming. I kept telling myself to just keep calm. This was my first grocery shopping trip with two children. And it was everything I pictured in my nightmares.

Until she saw me.

I don’t know where she came from. But she came.

I had just pulled our massive parade-float of a shopping cart over to the counter, and I was trying to bag my groceries with one hand and jamming the binky in my son’s mouth with the other. Neither was effective.

He kept on wailing. And I felt I was beginning to perspire as I was saying, “Shhhh,” and wiggling the binky into his mouth. The entire store could hear us.

As the soundtrack of baby screams continued, my daughter was upset and whining because I wasn’t letting her “beep” all the groceries before putting them into the bags. (She likes to pretend she’s the cashier. Even at the worst times.)

I looked up out the window into the parking lot to see that it was snowing…sideways. The wind was blowing hard, and it was nasty out.

But then she came. This woman.

I didn’t see her, but…

She saw me.

She saw me flustered, trying to be under control, and visibly struggling. (Audibly struggling…as the wailing continued.)

She came over to me and said, “What can I do to help you?” And something about the way she said it, I knew she meant it. 

I recognized her as the friend of one of my friend’s. I didn’t know her name, but I had seen her before maybe at a cookie exchange, or birthday party.

“I can do anything,” she said.

She quickly came over and helped me bag up the rest of my groceries. She talked sweetly to my daughter. And she said, “What else can I do?”

“Thanks so much. We’re okay,” I told her. Trying to convince myself we were, as I looked out into the parking lot and blowing snow.  And I almost left right then, but hesitated. There was something I saw in her face, something you don’t see every day:

kindness.

And I knew, I could let her help me. That she actually wanted to help me.

And I knew I could trust her. (Because she was my friend’s friend…and at that moment, it was enough.)

So I said, “Can you stay with my daughter and cart while I pull my car up?”

“Of course,” she said with a smile.

She knelt down and smiled at my daughter, and began showing her pictures of her kids on her phone. (Because she was a Mommy, too.) And I’m not sure, but I wonder if she may have had a day like this once.

I left the store carrying my son out to the car in this impromptu blizzard and pulled up as quickly as I could. Part me felt crazy, I couldn’t believe I was doing this. But I was desperate.

When I went back in the store she was still knelt down with my daughter showing her pictures on her phone. I thanked her as best as I could, and we left.

I had managed to keep my composure in the grocery store, and even when I was putting away my cart back to get my quarter back. But as I drove home, the tears came.

I began the ugly cry. Partly because of all the pent-up frustration I had felt in the store, but mostly because of what this woman  had done for me. That she just jumped in, all hands on deck, ready to do anything for me. I remembered her words,

“What can I do to help you?”

“I can do anything.”

There is an African Zulu greeting I have heard of, “Sawubona.”

It means, “I see you.”

I see you. 

She was just one woman, but she saw me. She saw me frantically juggling my groceries, and the binky bouncing out of my hand, the crying newborn, and the daughter trying to “beep” all the groceries, and nearly breaking them.

She could have closed her eyes.

But she opened them.

She could have walked on by. But she stopped.

She saw me.

She could have smiled, and said, “Been there!” (Which would have still been nice.)

But she went the extra mile. She got low, to show me kindness.

And there is a huge difference between being nice.

And being kind.

Niceness is safe, but real kindness is risky.

Kindess isn’t just a smile. But it’s words, and it’s heart, and it’s hands–when you need them.

And she was kind.

She didn’t just say it. She showed it.

She simply saw a very messy situation, and turned it into a beautiful one. With kindness.

I think she did exactly what Jesus would have done if He were standing in ALDI’s today. And the more I think about it, the more I realize He was there. In her.

She literally lived out, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

I think here in the midst of suburbia, we sometimes don’t know how to be kind. We are afraid to ask someone if we can help because we are afraid of offending someone. We are afraid of creating an awkward situation.

But I don’t think Jesus intended it to be as hard as we make it.

Maybe it’s as simple as saying:

Sawubona.

I see you. 

Or, in other words:

“What can I do to help you?”

“I can do anything.”

How Spilled Cheerios Taught Me To Laugh

high chair
“Watch this, Mom!” my daughter said this morning at breakfast. Before I could respond, I watched her toss her bowl of dry Cheerios up in the air, and try to catch them in the bowl. “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!” I screamed a deep, bellowing scream–as the Cheerios cascaded through the air and scattered all across the kitchen floor. “Ughh!!!” I screamed again. “Why did you do that!?”

“Don’t you know you aren’t supposed to throw your food on the floor??!!”

“Pick these up right now!!” I glared.

The look on my 3-year-old’s face showed me how terrifying I must have looked in that moment. For one, when I screamed, “NOOOOOO!!” it was the same pitch and intensity that Frodo screams in the Lord of the Rings when Gandalf falls off the cliff.

Pretty good for 8:10 a.m.

We were off to a great start. I’d like to add that I read this post last night about how God desires mothers to be gentle creatures. It was a great idea–gentleness. And it was a great post–I shared it with a bunch of friends before bed.

Too bad in real life (and especially before I’ve had my coffee), I’m not a gentle creature, but more like a creature from Middle Earth.

Realizing this, I knelt down…, “Selah,” I said, “Was that just an accident?” She nodded her head, looking up at me with her big blue eyes. “Were you trying to catch the Cheerios in your bowl?” She nodded again, and fell into my arms for an embrace.

“I’m sorry, honey,” I said, “Everyone makes mistakes. Even Mom.”

“It’s okay, let’s clean them up together,” I said.

We picked up as many as we could and put them in the trash. Then Selah said, looking dissapointed, “But I really wanted some Cheerios, Mom.”

I told her the ones on the floor were dirty–but I could get her a new bowl. “Here, I’m going to put you in the high-chair this time so you don’t spill. And let Mommy get them for you.”

I put her in her high-chair (which we don’t use much any more–except when I feel like she is acting sort of baby-ish.) I poured her another hefty helping of Cheerios into her little plastic Ikea bowl and said, “Be careful this time.” And…I kid you not…as I was about to hand her the bowl–I bumped my elbow on a kitchen chair–and the bowl and all the Cheerios went flying through the air. And then scattered all across the kitchen floor.

My jaw dropped, Selah’s jaw dropped–and then our eyes met.

And we burst out laughing.

We laughed hysterically–as we looked around at the plague of Cheerios that covered our kitchen floor.

And I swallowed hard. I was such a hypocite. And I knew it.

And she knew it. But she didn’t look at me like that. She just kept smiling.

Instead of screaming at me, or giving me the “ugly sigh.” (Like I would do to her.)

She giggled. And I giggled. And we couldn’t stop.

“I have accidents, too,” I said.

I got my broom, and said, “Do you want to help me?”

“Yes!” she cheered. I pulled her out of her high-chair and she grabbed her little broom and swept with a smile, and crushed some under her bare toes–but I couldn’t help but smile back.

I guess sometimes grace comes from the eyes of a child. And grace isn’t really as complicated as we make it. It’s simply laughing, instead of sighing. It’s biting your tongue, instead of screaming. It’s letting accidents be accidents. And it’s pausing to realize what your reaction (a.k.a. “wrath”) means to the heart of a child.

I think laughter is evidence of a gracious person. If you want to know if you are gracious–how much do you laugh?

She’s actually better at it than I am.

But I’m learning.

To laugh.

And to ask my 3-year-old for forgiveness when I lose it.

And to feel the power of recieving it from her.

And God is so faithful to expose my Orc-like heart–especially as a writer who wants to hide behind my words. He shows me my actions. Even the morning after I share great blog posts about “gentleness” with a bunch of my friends.

He humbles me. Whether it’s by me bumping my elbow, and spilling the Cheerios, or whether He sent an angel to smack them out of my hands (I really think it might be the second one–because they went flying.) But either way: He humbles me.

Right in front of my daughter.

And He reminds me I need Him even more than I thought I did. I need His love, and grace—and she needs it. She needs to see it on my face, and in my eyes. She needs to hear it in my laugh.

And He reminds me, in the voice of a little girl, that grace laughs.

And picks up Cheerios. One at a time.

mess

When Motherhood Gets Messy


“Don’t touch Mommy when she’s on the potty.”

This is an actual rule in our house. One of those rules you never imagine making before entering motherhood, but makes total sense after the fact. My daughter is two, and when I’m on the toilet, she likes to stand right up next to me, with her hand on my thigh like a faithful midwife.

A midwife who won’t leave. Who screams and pounds on the door when I try to lock her out. It’s rather stressful…for all digestive purposes.

My daughter has a way of entering my space. Whether I want her to, or not. How I am disarmed by a two-year-old day after day, I am still trying to figure out.

We’re in the potty training stage right now. Which means…I currently spend most my free time sitting on the bathroom floor. Waiting for her to “finish.”

I never thought I’d be comfortable eating my breakfast cereal or drinking my coffee while she stinks up the place. But I am.

I am reaching new “lows” like a Limbo champ.

Public Bathroom or Wrestling Cage?

Public bathrooms are the worst.

My daughter is obsessed with them. Every time we’re in a new store, she wants to “go.” I’ll open the door of the stall, and she races in like she’s first in line at the gate of Disney World. And she always heads for the same place, that little one foot gap between the toilet and the wall. You know, the place where only two things—the plunger and toilet brush–should be? But alas. My girl makes three and picks them up and greets them like long lost relatives. That’s when I start screaming, “No! No!!! Yucky!! Put those down!! Yucky germs! No! No! Not in your mouth!!!” So much for peaceful parenting. Get me in a public restroom and I’m a fire-breathing dragon.

The whole experience is catastrophic. And as we take turns going potty, I’m not sure what’s worse: my turn, when she stands with her hand on the latch of the stall door, and smiles, knowing I am at her complete mercy, while I threaten her, “Don’t you DARE open that door!!” Or her turn, when she nearly takes a plunge into the enormous toilet while screaming, “I do it myself!” and then rummages her hand through the “feminine napkin” box like it’s a Happy Meal. Either way, it usually ends in a lot of screaming and scuffling and banging around. Sounding much like a wrestling cage-match to the person in the stall next to us.

(If you’re not a mom, imagine someone trying to sit on a toilet and wrestle an alligator at the same time. Because that’s much what’s going when Mommy and Toddler are in the next stall.)

[Click here to finish reading the rest of this post at Thriving Home Blog, where I have had the priviledge of being featured by Polly and Rachel.]