I'm sorry I've been so quiet. I've been overwhelmed with busyness lately, and I'm trying to slow down. My head is full of stories and news and revelations, but I only have time today to tell you one story. This time I'll try to make it quick. (I know you've heard that one before.)
If you're a long-time reader, you may remember my customary grocery store prayer. As I dropped by the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Sunday, I realized I hadn't been saying that prayer for awhile; I'd just been too busy, too frazzled to think about anything but my grocery list and all the chores waiting for me back at home.
Before I climbed out of my car this time, I paused and asked God, "Please, let me see with your eyes today. Help me to love someone while I'm here."
I'd already forgotten my prayer by the time I was pushing my cart down the second aisle, but God hadn't forgotten. As I dropped some apple cider vinegar into my cart, I looked up and stopped in my tracks. A lovely woman was approaching from the other end of the aisle, and I couldn't help noticing her beauty. It wasn't the kind of beauty you see on a magazine cover, though she was definitely pretty. It was more of an inner beauty, a glow, a visible peace that reminded me of the Proverbs 31 woman: clothed in strength and dignity. She was a tall black woman, maybe 10 years older than me. She had perfectly coiffed corn rows (is that still what they're called?), and she wore black heels and a white and black floral-print dress that was feminine but not frilly. It looked like she might be coming home from church, though it was 2:30 in the afternoon.
As I passed her, trying not to stare, a little voice in my head said, Tell her. Tell her she's beautiful. I literally shrugged it off, figuring she'd think I was weird. I slowed my cart to a crawl and edged past her, my eyes glued to my groceries. DO IT! the inner voice insisted, and I felt my heart speeding up.
I stopped the cart and spun on my heels. She happened to be looking my way, so I just let the words spill out. "You look beautiful today!" Immediately I thought, How crazy! Why would I say "today" as if I knew how she looked on any other day?
I don't think she thought I was crazy. But she was surprised, shocked even. She gave an audible gasp, and her hands flew to her throat. "Th-thank you!" she stammered, a wide grin making her even more beautiful.
My grin was probably even wider. "You're welcome," I said. "Have a good afternoon." And I ducked around the corner, a spring in my step. Laughter bubbled up inside, and I covered my mouth like Allyson when she's so delighted it makes her shy. I felt like I'd just surprised someone with a little gift, a just-because-you're-special gift.
That's when I remembered last week's video from my new Bible study, Living Your Life as a Beautiful Offering. In the video, Angela Thomas recounts a story of a day when she was utterly drained, physically and emotionally. She'd been drenched on the way into the airport, and she was not having a good hair day, to say the least. She had recently gone through a divorce, and she was feeling ugly inside and out. As she walked to the baggage claim after her flight, an older gentleman with an Italian accent told her, "You are beautiful to me."
She felt as if God himself had spoken to her, and she was sure He had used that stranger to remind her that she was so beautiful in His eyes, that He was "just wild about her."
As I finished my shopping, I wondered if God might have just used me to remind that strange woman of His love, if maybe she'd needed that message just then. Despite the usual minor grocery store annoyances, I was still smiling when I got to the parking lot.
I'd almost reached my car when I looked up and saw a middle-aged woman and her teenage daughter. Both of them were smiling as if they might be sharing a joke. The older woman wore a pretty white and black blouse, and the girl wore a fuchsia blouse that looked striking against her flawless dark skin. They were both quite pretty, but what I really noticed was their strong resemblance. Looking at the mother was like seeing the girl in 30 or 40 years. I thought of how God had made each of them with such loving care, how he'd knit that girl together in her mother's womb.
This time I didn't even hesitate. "You two sure make a beautiful pair!" I exclaimed.
"Thank you!" they said in unison.
"Have a good afternoon," the mother said, and the girl smiled shyly at me.
I don't know what's gotten into me, but I can't wait to see what I'll do next!