Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Non-Existence of Picture Perfect


Do you know that phrase "picture perfect"? It's a phrase that is normally used to describe the weather of the day.  "Oh, it's just such a picture perfect day, isn't it? 60 degrees and not a cloud in the sky!" , a couple that seems to have it all "Aren't they just a picture perfect couple? They look so good together." or on a greater scale, some body's entire life. " She has such a picture perfect life. She owns her own company, is financially well off, is thin, beautiful, has a husband who loves her and two of the sweetest children you could ever meet."

I've decided to take the phrase "picture perfect" out of my vocabulary, because it doesn't exist. Now, one could argue that you might as well take the words "fairy, "Never Never Land" and Mermaid" out of your vocabulary as well because they too, obviously do not exist. However, it should be stated that the location in our brain where logic takes place can clearly identify that a human with a fish tail who lives under the sea does not match up with reality, but it is also just as clear that the phrase "picture perfect" does not prompt such a logical response from the brain; instead, it subconsciously communicates to us that we are to do what we can to obtain this description, and that this description falls under the realm of "good, positive and happy". All adjectives in which we hope to be or become.

With tears of frustration and anger spewing out all over the place, I muttered these words: "This isn't how I pictured it. This is NOT how I pictured things to be." Over the course of the next several days, those tears and anger continued to come, and I simply could not put a stop to it. It didn't feel natural, normal or "right" as a Christian to tell God that "this isn't how I pictured it". With every session of tears and every imperfect, muttered prayer to God, He gently and quietly whispered a truth to my heart.

"Sarah, this isn't how you pictured it. But this is how I pictured it. Let me put your picture together"

As followers of Jesus Christ, there is no such thing as picture perfect.Picture perfect indicates that it is how we would like it to look, howwe would like to feel. It has "I" at the center of the vision, when God is and will always be the only one to see the big picture. The last time I checked "I" was never at the heart of being a Christian, so I've decided that the phrase "picture perfect" is just a sly ,clever, idealized way for satan to influence God's children to make it about them.

Trust God with the camera. Let him choose the scenery, the lay out, the colors and the props. Trust His timing for the best time to capture the right image. Trust God with the big picture.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

At the Heart of Submission

Submission. What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you see or hear that word? I'm sure Websters Dictionary has a definition for this word, and I've quoted him a time or two in this blog, however in this post I hope to provide a fresh perspective on this word and what it means to incorporate it into our day to dayness.

To submit to someone or something, means to put aside your needs, desires, thoughts and ambitions in the form of a physical action. When a woman gets married, she has vowed to God, her husband and everyone in attendance that she will submit to her husband and his leadership, trusting and believing that that her husband is following and being submissive to Jesus Christ. An individual who wants a paycheck has to submit to the rules and regulations of a company (whether or not he agrees to them) if he wants to keep his job. 

My favorite example of submission in the Bible is the story of Ruth and Naomi. After Naomi's husband died, as well as her two sons ( one of which was married to Ruth), Ruth boldly declared "Don't urge me to leave you or turn my back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)  Willingly Ruth laid aside everything she knew and loved, and submitted to Naomi and the relationship that she had with her.

However, since it is Christmas, the story of Mary resonates in my heart. At the humble age 13 or 14, Mary submitted to the greatest plan ever to be placed on this earth; to carry the Son of God. For centuries Mary has captured the attention of the Christian church, and her character and life have been analyzed on so many levels. But for this post, I want to focus primarily on the submission that she had to the Lord. The only question that she asked is "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34). However, noticed that she didn't question the wisdom or the reasoning, only the mechanics of how such an event could take place in her young, untouched body.

As I reflect on all the events that have taken place within this last year, I am humbled at how I have not submitted to the will of Christ as willingly as Mary did during that precious time in history. There have been many times where I have just muttled through and done my very best to accept my circumstances, realizing that if this is how God sees fit, there is no point in trying to change any of it. But as the bitterness, anger, hurt and depleting level of hope peel away, my heart is revealed to expose the fact that what is missing is the humble and honest act of submitting to Christ and His perfect timing and plan for my life. That my friend, is the heart of Submission. Surrendering your life to Christ without ever knowing what the outcome will be, and trusting that you are where you need to be at just this moment in time.

As we approach Christmas weekend, I encourage you to lay aside the commercialism, the busyness, the gifts, the food, and everything that casts a shadow on the true meaning of Christmas. I challenge you to examine areas in which God is calling you to submit to His plan, His will, His timing, His way. 

Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Prayer

Just like your daughter Mary
Submitting to your will is a good place to start
but Lord I ask that you enable me to do my part, within my heart.
I can say with my lips that I surrender all
but the real work that takes place is inside of my heart as I heed your call
Help to lay myself aside and to choose to abide
to abide in your peace, to abide in your love.
As you send me through the refiners fire, take me to a place that is higher.
My questions, my thoughts, my every wonder of "why"?
I give to you an offering of tears 
wrapped in faith and given in love
And just as the wisemen followed the star
May I follow and trust you to give purpose to my scars
And in turn, help me to see
That it's not about tinsel, the gifts, family or a decorated tree,
but the only gift that you ask for this Christmas is a bended knee.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What a Cashier is REALLY doing When They are Ringing You Up

Stocking and replenishing shelves and ringing up items for people has the potential to have a high boredom factor. As such, I have found myself day dreaming, observing and making up potential stories and scenarios of customers based on the items they purchase, their appearance, the people they are with and/or the little bits of information that they give me.

Example #1: The other day I rang up items for a woman who was dressed to the nine, had the perfect body, hair, nails, etc. and she was purchasing some Christmas cards. I noticed that the front on one of them said "Merry Christmas to my man", and then I noticed that she had this huge rock on her finger. In the course of that 1 minute, I wondered what her fiancee/husband did for a living, and I wondered if he appreciated her as much as  she appreciated him. I then found myself wondering about how he proposed to her, and then started dreaming about my future marriage proposal. All in about a minute.

Example #2: Yesterday I had a woman come through my lane who looked absolutely exhausted. Bags underneath eyes, sweat pants, and disheveled hair. Her purchase? Diapers, wipes, $1.00 Christmas crap from our "one spot" and at least 4 bags of Christmas candy and a Dr. Pepper from our beverage cooler. Need I say more?

Example #3: The most adorable older woman came through my lane with sugar, flour, chocolate chips and at least 12 pairs of printed women's socks. I imagined this sweet little lady stirring up Christmas cookies for her family, and wrapping up little individual boxes with one little pair of socks in each one, so grateful to have found a gift that was "unique, equal and yet were not "all alike"  "

Example #4: This young couple came through my lane and purchased condoms, KY Intense for Him and Her, coke, chips and queso dip. Some purchases don't leave anything to the imagination.

Example #5:  A tall, ruggedly handsome man in his 30's with dirty hands, a wedding band and dressed in construction work type clothes came through my lane and purchased a 120 count box of diapers. I had to stop myself from looking him straight in the eyes, putting my hand on his shoulder, and thanking him for being a real man and provider for his family. I'm guessing he might have avoided my lane on his next trip.

So many different people with so many different stories. When you go through a lane to purchase your items, it may seem like you go through unnoticed, but if your cashier is anything like I am.... an imaginative, passionate, creative and completely bored individual in the midst of transition, just dying to get out of  her current season of life...know that you aren't as invisible as you think you are!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The "What not to be " Guide for Shopping at Retail Stores

Tis the season for Christmas trees, grandma's homemade sugar cookies, red and green everything and.......
  •  Children who have such terrible melt downs that you can hear the ringing of screaming in your ears at least 10 minutes after you leave the store.
  • Customers who stand and watch you struggle to fit their awkward, bulky, long heavy toys into "not quite large enough"bags, only to have them rip, and they watch you start all over again.
  • Women who would rather stand and argue with you that their "card is good", even though the truth of the matter is that they've already spent their limit on buying Christmas crap and are permanently in denial, which somehow ends up being being all your fault.
  • Customers who think that we are mind readers. of course we should telepathically know you want separate transactions because one order is for your daughter and must be paid in cash and the other is yours and needs to be paid with a credit card. Verbal exchange is never needed for such a request.
  • Customers who decide to completely unravel a table of nicely folded shirts, organized according to color and size, because their son is x-tra large and his size sits at the bottom... but it took taking apart every other size to figure out that every shirt has a sticker with the size smack dab on the front.
  • Customers who decide that leaving a bag of half eaten popcorn by the nice flannel shirts is a good idea.
  • When you say "good morning!" to a customer, and they look at you briefly and give you a half smile and no verbal response, even as they are leaving. 
  • When a customer treats you like a scanning machine instead of a human being with intelligence and feelings.
  • Being the "rage outlet" for stressed out, workaholic moms who are trying to balance a full time job, kids and putting on the "Christmas of every one's dreams".

These examples (and there are many more that haven't come to mind at the moment) are a good guide and reminder for you as the consumer, as you finish up the last of your holiday shopping. I know stress runs high and time is running out, but take your cart, stand over by the scented candles and take a DEEP breath and say to yourself "It's all about baby Jesus, it's all about baby Jesus" and hopefully the rest of your customer etiquette will naturally fall into place. :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Transformation to Unrecognizable

Last night at work I was ringing up some adorable, mini "real life" looking infant dolls. I took one look at them, and shared with the customer that those would have been perfect dolls for residents in a memory care. She looked at me like I was nuts, and then I tried to explain myself, which further made me appear to be nuts.

And then I realized...

This woman really doesn't care. She smiled at me politely and said something to the effect of "that's nice", and went about her business. I said "Have a great night", and then mentally kicked myself for not keeping that comment to myself.

You see, in my world, finding a real life looking infant doll for $3.00 is something worth mentioning. Why? Because it would benefit and comfort a woman with severe dementia. I could envision handing the doll wrapped up in a pink baby blanket to one of my past residents, seeing the look of sheer love and joy on her wrinkled face as she rocked the baby and kissed the top of her head.

However, my world has changed. It has gone from meaningful experiences like this one, to wearing red and khaki and asking "Can I help you find something?". It has gone from having conversations about World War 2 and rolling out lefse, to pushing chemicals to the front of the shelf. Tears well up in my eyes as I reminisce about what my 8 hour work day used to look like, though I must be careful to not paint a perfect picture of that time.

I simply don't know where God wants me, or what He wants me to do. Right now, I know that  He has placed me in Target to be a "fast, fun and friendly" employee to help pay the bills and serve as a transition job till I am led to a more permanent position somewhere. But I know it's temporary. Heavens, everything is temporary on this earth. Everything will eventually die, erode or move on, everything but God's word (Matthew 24:35). Though this truth is comforting, it still does not stop the human desire to know where He is leading me and who He is shaping me to be. It is so hard for me to accept that right now and right here is what it is  for right now. 

I have been feeling like I have been losing parts of myself, but maybe God is just putting those things on the back burner or removing them completely because those parts werent' as great as I thought they were. I'm sure that there is some glorious, beautiful, refined result of this season of my life... I just pray for the perspective, strength and willingness to believe that there is.

I know many people who read my blog have felt ministered to and inspired by the thoughts and perspectives that the Lord has given me, and I praise Him for that. However, I also pray that my brokenness, honesty and humility will do the same. I really don't have answers right now and I don't have much perspective, but I have the hand of Christ on my heart and on my shoulder, leading me in both ways at the same time.