But, being a mother of four generally hungry children (and more importantly being out of NyQuil and coffee) I made what I hoped would be a quick run to Wal-Mart.
After the quickest cart-fill in the history of woman-kind I headed to the checkout.
My head was beginning to hurt from the sinus infection I knew must be brewing, and my bones ached with what was likely the onset of the flu.
But I waited patiently whilst the lady in front of me took all of 5 full minutes to decide whether to use a check or debit card.
Really? Does it really make a difference?
I only thought those words, as fortunately, my self-control still held my tongue in check. Or maybe it was because I was sub-consciously biting my tongue.
Anyway. I plastered a smile on my face for the duration of scans and beeps by the sweetest albeit slowest checker in the store.
Now I am so very chipper most of the time, as anyone who knows me will attest. However, today … well, let’s just say illness and exhaustion had truly gotten (and kept) the best of me.
I know it was starting to show through because John Christian, standing beside me, looked up at me and frowned.
“Mom?” he said with a look of concern and maybe a little embarrassment, “Why aren’t you talking to her? You’re usually so nice to people.”
I’m feeling a bit shamed at my lack of positive influence, so I attempt a conversation with the sweet thing, as I hand her about 10 coupons I’d managed to gather before dragging myself out the door.
She answers whatever I ask her with a smile. I’m hoping my smile doesn’t look like a grimace, but by her brief answers I get that I’m maybe not looking as nice as she does today.
Honestly, I just don’t care.
That is, until it happens.
Two coupons in, the computer beeps, and she asks if I purchased the item. I sigh. I dig for it, produce it, show it to her and set it back in the bag.
This happens with every single item.
My nose is now starting to run again, so I rummage for the Kleenex I just bought, open them, use one, and toss the thing back into the basket without caring where it lands.
I don’t mind doing this too much, as long as it gets done.
But then – the coupon for Land O’ Lakes Half & Half. I had a coupon for $1 off a pint or larger.
I had bought two pounds of coffee, so I picked up a quart of the creamy liquid.
Cashier: Did you buy this?
I produce the item.
Cashier stares from coupon to quart for 30 seconds. There is a PHOTO of the quart size she’s holding in her hands ON the actual coupon.
At this point, I am searching for the NyQuil, that blessed bottle of green liquid.
She looks up at me like I’m trying to pawn off counterfeit money.
Cashier: It says here that you must buy a pint or larger.
Clutching my NyQuil, all I can do is stare and hope I heard wrong.
Me: It’s a quart.
Cashier: Right, but you have to buy a pint or larger.
I blink and begin to pick at the irritating plastic from the lid of my bottle.
Me – (speaking very slowly, partially because I’m fixated on opening my drug of choice, but mostly to be sure I am understood by this sweet, slow little person controlling my world)
I say “A Quart is the same as TWO PINTS.”
Cashier: Um. I don’t think so.
I just blink at her for a few moments, truly not knowing what to say. Although behind me,
John Christian is singing his little song about liquid measures which we’d learned in home school a few weeks before.
Cashier: I’m gonna go get a manager.
I finally finesse the lid in just the right way, and take a swig of relief, swallowing hard just as the manager ambles over looking like I’m a difficult customer, with the little cashier at her heels.
Manager: Ma’am it says you have to buy a pint or larger.
Me: Right! I bought a quart see? (I point to the item in her hand, relieved to have someone smarter than the many hair pins in her hair)
Manager: But a quart is smaller than a pint.
John Christian begins nonchalantly singing his little memory song about a quart equaling 2 pints again.
I take a final draw on the NyQUIL, look up at the two…women…and literally shout,
A QUART IS BIGGER THAN A PINT, PEOPLE, GET YOUR MATH STRAIGHT!
Ahem. That is not like me. At all. John Christian stops singing and lifts his eyebrows over his now enormous eyes. “Mom!” is all he can get out.
I can’t speak either. I’ve shocked even myself. I quickly put away the NyQuil and grin sheepishly.
Manager: Well, um, I’ll just let it go this time. You can have your dollar off the quart anyway.
My face flushed red for every reason possible, shame, anger, and likely fever, but I managed to not speak at all while paying the final tab.
I left quickly. Went to bed immediately and woke up refreshed the next day.
But my children will never ever forget the day Mommy yelled at the ladies in Wal-Mart.
However, when they do, I remind them that – were it not for me educating them – they could BE those ladies in Wal-Mart.
It’s a funny story, yes, but my purpose in telling it is much more serious.
We all have those days when we have exhausted our physical and spiritual resources. Those days when looking like Jesus Christ is near to impossible for us. We’re human, it happens.
But when I perform an EPIC-FAIL (as my children call it) in front of a world that needs me to be a light, well, that’s when I have to fall on my knees again.
At least after the NyQuil has done its job, and I come to my senses.
When I do, God reminds me gently that, I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6.
Don’t give up. God is still good. Ask Him to help you where you fail, and let His grace and forgiveness wash over you, bringing you relief.
Praise God He is not dependent on our strength, but that His strength is perfected in our weakness.