I sit in my car in the parking lot of our local Walmart going over the grocery game plan with my sons. We are going into the store, getting our five items, go through the self check out, and then leave. I further stress to my sons that they are to follow me and not wander off to look at other items; I reiterate, we are just getting what is on my list and that is it. I don’t do this because my boys are little and apt to run off in the store, no they are twenty and sixteen, but I’ve learned from experience that if we stray from the food section of the store, it will be an two hour endeavor because they will have to look at the video games, the movies and tee shirts that they think look cool. None of these things are done quickly, no they linger as if moving in slow motion. One this particular day, I know that my patience is already wearing thin and I am not in the mood to argue with them about things that I have no intention of buying. Before opening the car door I make sure everyone understands what is going to happen once we step out of the car. Once they have repeated my instructions I open the door and impatiently wait while it seemingly takes forever for them to open their doors so I can lock the car and begin our trek into the store. We have not even finished crossing the parking lot before Mitchel starts complaining that Daniel is being rude to him and I see Daniel dart ahead of us so that he can be the first one into the store. I do not know why being the first to get to a cart is so important, but it is, and it just another source of aggravation to this unavoidable task that I must endure.
I hate shopping; I hate it with a passion, particularly grocery shopping. My aversion to shopping developed at a young age. I still remember countless times that my mom said that she was just going to run into the grocery store for a couple of things, and an hour and a half later with two full grocery carts full she would finally emerge from the grocery store. I would beg to stay in the truck while she shopped, and it was a happy day indeed when I was finally old enough not to have to follow her down every aisle as she shopped. Before Bob got sick, he did all the grocery shopping. In our first twenty-one years of marriage I only had to go to the grocery store a handful of times. I loved that he was willing to grocery shop. All I had to do was text him a list and he picked up said items plus whatever he wanted. It was heaven on earth!
The Chicken Breasts
One of those handful of times that I braved the grocery store was just a month before Bob went into the hospital. I was driving home from work and I was in the mood to make a pot of chili. I had been on Weight Watchers for a few months and decided to make chili with chicken breasts so that it would stay low in points, so uncharacteristically of me I decided to stop at the grocery store on the way home and pick up the items that I would need. Now remember, at this blessed time in my life, I did not grocery shop so I had no idea where anything was, but I figured I would just go through the aisles until I found what I needed. Most of my list was canned goods so they should all be pretty close together, and of course, I needed a bag of frozen skinless, boneless chicken breasts.
I get my cart, put my purse in the child seat portion of the cart and begin my journey. After a few minutes, I have found all my canned goods: a bag of onions, a bag of oyster crackers, Rotel, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and dark red kidney beans. Now I was off to the freezer section to get my chicken breasts and then I could check out and go home; easy peasy! I was thinking that this grocery store shopping was not so bad; I was proudly pushing my cart feeling elated of my grocery shopping prowess. I get to the aisles with the frozen food and read the hanging signs so I know which aisle to go down. Not breakfast, not ice cream or desserts, ah, frozen meals, here we go. I’m looking for a big five pound bag of chicken breasts, I know the bag is blue, so I start scanning the items as I walk by the glass doors. I get to the end of the aisle and no chicken, so I say to myself in must be in the next aisle. I wheel the cart to go to the next aisle and begin my scanning for the desired glorious blue bag to complete my list and pat myself on the back for conquering my most hated task. I get to the end of the aisle, and still no chicken. Well, I must have missed it, so I return to the previous aisle and meander down the aisle at a slower pace to make sure I don’t miss it this time. However, I reach the last glass door and have again not found my bag of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Okay, I know Bob buys the blue bags at this store, so I decide to devise a full-proof plan to find the chicken breasts. I start at the last aisle and very slowly go door-by-door looking for these big bags of chicken. At the end of the first aisle, I move to the next one, and go down each aisle twice so I can just look at one side of the aisle at a time. I’ve now been through the second aisle twice and still no chicken, so I move the third aisle which says ice cream and decide to check this aisle. I do down the ice cream and dessert aisle twice and no chicken, so I move to the fourth aisle, breakfast. It doesn’t make sense to me that frozen chicken would be with the breakfast foods, but it’s the last aisle with freezer doors, so I’m going to check it out. After two trips down this aisle, I still have not found the huge bags of frozen chicken, nor was there empty spots on the shelves in the unbelievable chance that the store was actually out of frozen chicken!
I’m getting slightly perturbed by this point. I am a fairly educated woman and do know that frozen chicken has to be in freezer section, yet there is no chicken to be found. I rationalize that it is highly improbable that the store has discontinued selling frozen chicken breasts as Bob had just bought some two weeks ago. I’m now faced with the dilemma of what to do next. The whole purpose of the grocery visit was to get stuff to make chili and I can’t make my weight watcher friendly chili with hardly any points if I don’t have the chicken breasts. You might say, “I would have just forgot it and left the cart and went home.” The thought crossed my mind briefly, but there is no way that I was putting my cart items back after I had just spent thirty minutes trying to find frozen chicken breasts; I’m going home with chicken breasts even if I have to try and find an employee and ask where they are. I can’t let chicken breasts get the best of me.
However, before I become the funniest customer joke that is shared in the employee break room for years to come, I decide I’ll call Bob and ask him where the frozen chicken breasts are in the store. This is not a high point in my life, but I figure after so many years of marriage this experience won’t rate as the most unbelievable thing that I’ve done in Bob’s memory. So with the proud accomplished feeling that had me strutting down the aisles at the beginning of this tortuous event completely driven out by the defeated humiliation I’m currently experiencing, I dial Bob, and then pray that he actually picks up or I’m going to have to go to the customer service department. I didn’t think it was possible, but my hope deflated even more, I got Bob’s voicemail. Well, there was no way I was leaving a recorded message of my plight that can be saved forever to share with family and friends, so I hang up and wander aimlessly through the store to try to think of what to do.
It is only a couple of minutes later when my phone rings, and I know it is Bob because his special ring tone is the song, “You’re a Mean One Mister Grinch.” That’s another story, but suffice to say I downloaded the ringtone to dedicate to him about six years ago at Christmas time and just never changed it. I answer the phone and use my fake happy voice in an attempt to conceal my utter frustration at my current circumstance, because in my mind I think it might make this situation slightly less humiliating and salvage some of my pride if Bob doesn’t know that this bag of chicken breasts has affected me mentally. After I say hello, Bob asks if I’m having car trouble, and then I tell him no and precede to explain that I stopped at Walmart to pick up groceries to make my chili and that I can’t find the bag of frozen chicken breasts. There is silence on the other end of the phone. I know what is happening, I have rendered him speechless. As I wait, he is mentally recounting what I said to be sure that he heard me correctly. All the words make sense, but as a sentence it seems inconceivable that I just actually said that I couldn’t find the frozen chicken breasts. Finally he exasperating says, “They’re in the freezer section!” In the space of a second my fake happy voice is gone and the full impact of my frustration and defeat is now imparted in my voice. I reply, “I know they’re in the freezer section, but I’ve been up and down every freezer section aisle multiple times and there is no chicken!” I am just finishing my sentence when I walk by the refrigerated area by the ground beef and in the center of the aisle is on open cold area where I see turkeys. I move ahead a few steps and there is my bags of chicken breasts. Ugh! If I had waited five more minutes I wouldn’t have had to call Bob and humiliate myself, no one would know that I just spent almost an hour looking for chicken breasts. I tell Bob, “Never mind, I just found them,” then add, “Who would logically think that frozen food would be sitting out in the open air in the middle of an aisle.” I have to justify myself somehow, it has to be somebody’s fault that I could not find the stupid bag of chicken. Fortunately for me, Bob didn’t draw out the conversation and as soon as we hung up I grabbed the coveted bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and went to stand in line to check out.
Accepting I’m Not Adequate
I am sure that you have heard the saying about knowing enough to be dangerous. That described my adequacy at shopping when it first became my responsibility. I didn’t know where anything was in the store, and I had no idea what items cost. I still dislike grocery shopping, but I have learned to navigate it fairly well. There are still times when I cannot find items that I rarely buy, but I’m happy to say that I find these items quicker than my experience of looking for the chicken breasts.
Scripture states, “And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:4-6 NASB). I may never be an exceptional shopper, finding the best deals, and knowing with precision where everything is in the store, but the reality is that I am not truly adequate in and of myself in anything, even in things that I might claim are areas I which I excel; my adequacy comes from Christ in me.
It is God who has given me certain gifts, talents, and abilities; I am not a failure because I do not excel, or even like doing certain things. I am a child of God, and my adequacy is not in my abilities or lack thereof, but in whose I am. God makes me adequate as a person, despite any personal short-comings or lack of ability. I can rejoice in my adequacy through Christ. I shall not devalue myself because I struggle with certain things, but I need to view myself through God’s eyes, as a beloved child who has been blessed in many things. It would be wrong to view myself primarily through a lens of seeking for faults and shortcomings, of limiting my value by simply measuring my worth by what I am able to do when I am the recipient of God’s grace and mercy. A lack of ability in certain areas does not devalue me as a human being created and loved by God; I am to rejoice and embrace my adequacy through Christ Jesus!