Monday, October 31, 2011

Plastic Bags & Prayer

Have you ever found yourself in a trivial situation where you felt you were being led one way but for the life of you couldn't figure out why God would care which freeway you took or which book was available at the library or what time you left for the post office?  This happens to me semi-daily. Of course, I generally shake it off and engage my plan to my own satisfaction.  I'm embarassed to admit that I feel I'm seeing signs - as if our Father in Heaven has the time to devote to planning my dog-walking schedule.  Surely He just controls the BIG decisions, right?

I was out running errands recently and had to stop at the grocery store to pick up some small bites to feed  friends who would be at my house within the hour.  I was in a neighboring city where a shop, Sprouts, was conveniently located in my path.  But since I knew it would take me time to navigate the unfamilar placement of their fare, I decided to double back to my own neighborhood.  I tell you I've been in this shopping center at least 100 times but it seemed that no matter which parking lot aisle I took, I ended up at a dead end to exit.  I began to wonder about that familiar feeling.  Surely, this wasn't a sign.  So I drove up the next aisle and from nowhere, a car pulled hastily out in front of me...and left available a parking space at Sprouts' front door.  "Okay, God, I'm listening.  Maybe they have a great olive tapenade you want my guests to enjoy...and it'll be on sale."  I parked, entered the store, and found almost nothing I needed.  Listless flowers, no bottled water, no soda...argh.  With half a shopping list still to purchase and 20 fewer minutes in which to purchase them, I checked out, a talkative young woman bagging my groceries in plastic, and off I went to my neighborhood anyway.  "What a collosal waste of time," I thought.  "Lord, I hope you're going to reveal the reason for this detour. Although I guess I should be grateful I didn't have to bag my own groceries."  My city banned plastic grocery bags in August and my family has adjusted, sometimes with frustration, to life without an extra bag or two around the house.

Today, my husband wanted to help Braden practice for his unit PE test tomorrow...juggling.  We looked everywhere and couldn't find the juggling scarves we used to own.  I said, "No problem, I can come up with something."  I cut some fabric and handed it to them...too heavy.  I found mini bean bags...he's not to that level yet.  I searched fabric remnants for something lightweight - and then I thought of a solution.  I went to my shawl drawer and found one remaining fashion scarf I could cut to use.  I said to the kids, "I saved this because Braden loved it as a baby.  He used to snuggle up against me when I wore it and wind it around his hands.  Sometimes he would cry for me to leave it in his bed.  Should I cut it now for him to use?"  Suddenly I didn't want to destroy this precious reminder of Braden's infancy.  My daughter cried, "No, Mama!" 

Right then, my husband walked in and said, "I think this would work.  It's our only plastic bag left." He held up an old yellow sack.  As I admired his practical solution, I realized there were more to use, "Oh my gosh, I have a new bunch of bags under the kitchen sink!  I shopped at Sprouts in Los Al and they bag your groceries there."  I didn't have to cut my scarf!  Only God could have known all three of our hearts - Drew's, Braden's, and my own - and what would transpire when those three hearts' desires collided.  Drew, diligently making sure the children are prepared for school, especially anything physical, tireless in his efforts to "make it work."  Braden with his tendency to procrastinate (I wonder where he got that trait?) and sometimes give up when conditions are unfamiliar, as he did while trying to juggle heavy fabric and unwieldy bean bags.  And me, my Father knows without question, with my desire for the children to live successful lives, willing to sacrifice most anything, even a treasured momento, to make sure that this happens for them.

How many times have I shrugged away the notion that God was working in all the little details of my life only to continue down my own course?  And how many opportunities and blessings have I lost by doubting what I knew to be true of my faith?  "That little voice inside your head" or "your guardian angel" or "intuition" - however you describe it - the feeling that makes you tingle, pulls you in one direction while you tug doggedly in the other, the sensation of little hairs standing on your neck - all of these indicators, I think, are the good Lord guiding us, no matter the obstacle we place in His way, in the direction He has chosen for us.  The path with the greatest benefit to our lives.  The path we might never have chosen for ourselves but one rich in abundant gifts.  From now on, I'll more carefully heed "my little voice" and look forward to the unexpected surprises that greet me on my way.

1 comment:

  1. Does God determine which traffic lights I hit on the way to church? I think perhaps only when I need a "teachable" moment, such as, "Curt, since you know how long it takes, and you know when church begins, why did you choose to focus on personal issues instead of getting in the car on time so that you could focus on Me?"