It’s okay if this story has you laugh at me. Lily laughed when it happened. Well… actually first she stood behind me, likely with an incredulous look on her face, and quizzically asked, “Uh… Mom… What are you doing?”
Truth be told, you’d think she would be used to me taking pictures of things that seem senseless. But I guess I still surprise her.
I mean, really, who doesn’t take pictures of grocery store aisles?
It’s just me? Yeah, I kinda figured.
The thing about standing in Tops (yes West Virginia friends, that is the name of a New York State grocery store) is that, in that moment, I realized it wasn’t my store any longer.
Strange realization? Maybe for you but for me, well it hit kind of hard in a soft spot that needed to be prodded. For years that store was one of my regulars. I brought 8 different children there in baby carriers, bought who know how many thousands of dollars in groceries, knew cashiers by name and life story (I was pretty good at helping them trouble shoot random illnesses with their kids) and even managed to survive 2 store resets… though just barely.
But that day this past November I realized those weren’t my aisles any longer.
Obviously I could still shop there but it was no longer my store.
I waited for a range of emotions to kick in. Actually in the seconds it took me to take the picture I tried out the whole gamut and landed on choosing: thankful.
(Trust me, I’m as surprised as you.)
Thankful for the memories. Thankful for the time I had. Thankful for the people who would fill my place. Thankful for the new aisles God was opening. Thankful for how it made me a little sad because it showed how much all those years meant. Thankful for the feeling of uncertainty because I knew I was doing the hard work of trusting God in the midst of the unknown.
All that… over grocery aisles? Yes. And because I allowed God to speak truth through that practically mundane moment, He worked greater truth in significant areas of my life.
The rest of our visit to NY was marked with intentionality. These pictures show that too.
I hugged people I normally would have just chosen to say a “hi” or “good-bye” and give a head nod as acknowledgment. I chose to put down my phone and focus on the time I had instead of being distracted. I chose to be brave and say big things and ask tough questions while I could before moments passed into history.
All because these weren’t my aisles any longer.
What if I lived every day that way? What if I lived every day knowing this moment is more special than I know, perfectly planned by God for me at that time.
What if I wasn’t held back by what I’d lost never to be experienced again or encumbered by what might or might not come to pass in the future?
The realization that “these aren’t my aisles any longer” doesn’t always go this way. That afternoon in November I made a choice; I didn’t break down, didn’t get angry, didn’t even celebrate… but I did reflect.
First, I reflected on how I felt. This step is important, as all too often we aren’t real with ourselves; we aren’t aware of how a situation has affected us.
Second, I processed how what I experienced and how I felt shaped my decisions. This is why knowing how I felt was so important because feelings are real and they influence our decisions, sometimes for the good and other times we make decisions from an emotional state that betray what we really want or truly need.
The Psalms are filled with expressions of emotions as the psalm writers poured their heart out to the Lord. There are psalms filled with joy and glorious expressions of praise, psalms filled with anger and confusion and sadness… and more. Emotions are real and God is big enough to handle how we feel because of what we’ve experienced.
Proverbs gives us wisdom to discern how to live in many situations. How to wisely respond to hard times, how to plan for the future, how to be a person of good character, the consequences of our decisions.
The Old and New Testaments give example after example of life lived in faith as well as numerous examples of what happens when choosing our own way over God’s path. And even more, the Word shows us who God is- and our hope is in Him.
Why does this matter? It isn’t just me that will face physical store aisles that aren’t mine any longer. At some point, all of us will come to an intersection in life when aisles we’ve walked down are no longer ours. Many of us face the reality that there are aisles we desperately desire to experience that will never be ours.
How will you respond in those critical junctures?
Don’t let fear, jealousy, sentimentalism, desire, anger, comparison and the like dictate how you will live.
Instead, how will you respond in trust and faithfulness?
Jesus offers us rest for our weary souls, the guidance and direction we need in a burdensome life. God is the sight we should set our eyes upon when the mountains rise above us. The Father is our faithful protector when the shadows close in. God is our ever-present help in times of danger. In faith we choose to trust in God as we wait upon Him as the Lord and author of our lives. This… this is how we can say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
Now hear me, please hear me: God made us as people with emotions and we sure have many of them! I know that all too well. I am not saying to ignore your sadness that a door has closed in your life. I am not saying to pretend you aren’t jealous of someone else walking aisles your heart yearns to experience. I am not saying to charge ahead as if you are confident when inside you are paralyzed with fear of the unknown future.
Emotions are real and it is important to know how you are feeling. Yet, when we let our emotions rule our behavior we often are led astray.
(This next part is big- and I want you to hear my heart) Who do you let speak truth to you? Friends, we need this: people who we trust and allow to speak truth we need to hear when we can’t see it ourselves. Because the thing about the aisles of our lives is that we often can’t see beyond them or beyond where we would like to be…. and coming to grips with our emotions and how our feelings affect our decision making needs intentional, God-centered guidance.
So again, who do you let speak truth to you? Who do you allow to speak faith where you fear? Who do you allow to speak calm where you feel uproar? Who do you allow to speak healing where you hurt? Who do you allow to speak directions where you feel disoriented? Who do you allow to speak correction where you are in the wrong?
I don’t know what aisles you are facing. I don’t know how you’re feeling. I don’t know your pain, joy, anticipation, anger, hurt, hope, understanding, confusion… but I know the God who does. My prayer for you (for us) right in this moment is that, in faith, acknowledging all we are experiencing and all that God is, we are able to trust Him, honor and glorify the Lord in the ends, transitions, new beginnings, disappointments, uncertainties, celebrations of the aisles of life.