Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Grocery Store Grace

I’m devouring Michelle DeRusha’s book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith. Seriously hoping MD writes a hundred more memoirs for me to laugh my way through and reflect upon. I love the way Michelle writes. (More on this another day.)

In Spiritual Misfit Michelle depicts some grocery story accounts that hit close to home. I’m talking baseball ball cracking the window to smithereens close to home. Michelle shares of a run in with an intrusive woman at the grocery store she’s dubbed Owl Spectacles. Good ole OS has a thing or two to say about Michelle’s children.
Man, have I been there.

Picture this. I’m hustling my youngest (three at the time) into Stop & Shop to buy lettuce. Yup, that’s all I needed. I agreed to bring a salad to a get together in T minus two hours. It had been months since my husband and I had done anything considered social. I was desperate to get out of the house sans children.

Of course I allotted myself the smallest window of time to purchase the one item I couldn’t find in my fridge, the item essential to a salad—lettuce.

Let us go, then, I said to the young skipping child. Not two feet into the store, right near the shiny apples, young skipping child turned on me. Feel free to imagine the spinning head from The Exorcist. I know I was. Flailing. Low guttural noises spewing. Well, not quite. But you get the gist.

Along comes a spider (scratch that) a cheerful elderly woman who apparently wanted to do nothing but help assist me with my little “problem child.” I briefly explained my predicament, already frayed (or couldn’t you tell by I HAD TO GET OUT OF MY HOUSE comment above) to the Mother Teresa lady.

She gleefully offered to watch young swinging one while I dashed to snatch up a bag of lettuce. I hesitated, then thought, If only there were more women like her in the world. I reasoned, they’d remain within eyesight the entire time. I grabbed the greens, watching Mother Goose calm my child with Julie Andrews attentiveness. As I prepared to bolt, I thanked the woman profusely, gushing over her unexpected kindness. Meanwhile, I worked to grasp young slippery one in the same breath.

I must have thanked her too profusely because this is when she got all passive aggressive on me. I’m warning you, it isn’t pretty.

“Well,” she huffed, “You’re certainly not going to win the mother of the year award.” She stared me down as though I’d dropped my child to the bottom of a well instead of spontaneously deciding to put my faith in the Mother Teresa kindness of a stranger.

Then I did what most women would want to do at this moment. I slammed my fist into her . . . Okay, so no, I didn’t. I cried. That’s what I did. I tackled my child, somehow made my way to the checkout aisle, and whipped out my credit card with tears streaming down my cheeks. The checkout clerk said something nice, but of course that didn’t stay with me.

Fake Mother T’s words did. I internalized what she said. And I felt small. I could have recited the following lines from Spiritual Misfit word for word four years ago standing outside of Stop & Shop.

“But it was people—people with their comments and their judgments and their good intentions—who taxed my ability to behave as I should. My fellow human beings made the whole Christian attitude thing very, very difficult to achieve.”

I hated that I let Fake Mother T’s words sink so deep, hated that I’d handed over that power, hated how I was so skilled at internalizing everything—even the lies and things that sliced into me.

After reading Michelle’s grocery store tribulation it hit me. This Stop & Shop slaughter was an opportunity for me to grant grace, not only to Fake Mother T, but also to grant myself some grace.

Three takeaways from this post:

1.       Buy Michelle DeRusha’s book.

2.       Beware of Fake Mother T’s trolling the produce aisle at the grocery store.

3.       Know that every interaction, every hurt, every lingering sadness presents an opportunity to grant grace and to finally let go.

So tell me, do you have any grace-filled grocery store stories?

“Grace does not make sense. It’s not supposed to make sense. Grace cannot be calculated or formulated…it is all grace. It is all a gift. Life itself is grace. And when it comes to grace, the word deserve isn’t even part of the equation.” ~ Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means.” ~ Brennan Manning


  1. Man, seriously, that is it with grocery stores, epic encounters with "kindly" old ladies and the need for copious amounts of grace? Thanks SO very much for the mention, Wendy. And I'm so glad you survived the Stop & Shop saga!

    1. Michelle, your book has moved to one of my top five favorite nonfiction works. Saying a lot b/c I read a ton.

  2. Ohhh I want to read this book now. And I don't even have kids. Nor do I have any disastrous grocery store stories. (I did once run into the fruit stand because, not even gonna lie, I was daydreaming.) But yeah...the book sounds fun and hilarious. Also, I am now internally made at Fake Mother T on your behalf. Seriously...who does that??

    1. So many takeaways in Michelle's book that don't involve kids. You'll love it. And thank you for your vicarious anger at Fake Mother T. Apparently she does. She does that. ;-)

  3. This was the most engaging book review ever!! Besides,

    1. I missed the rest of what you were going to write, Judith. Thanks & I hadn't even meant it to be a book review. Michelle's book has just been leaving such an impression on me, I had to write about it.

  4. Hi Wendy,
    Great post! I'm loving Michelle's book too!

    I'm reminded of a Wal-Mart shopping trip many many years ago when my daughter was 21/2-3 years old. She kept standing up in the back of the cart after I'd told her she had to sit down. The last warning was that if she couldn't sit, she would sit in the front of the cart with the little seat belt on. And so, that's where she ended up...and she screamed the entire time. I was determined to finish the shopping trip as quickly as possible. I may have shortened the trip, but I refused to leave right away because I didn't want to teach her that screaming worked. I can only imagine the nasty looks and rolled eyes---because I didn't make eye contact with anyone. What I don't see can't hurt me right? lol

    Now when I find myself annoyed with screaming kids in the store I find I'm more empathetic and able to give grace when I remember this experience.


    1. So good.

      Grocery store woes, I tell ya. It's madness getting out of the house sometimes with kids under the age of nine. Did I write nine, I meant 20! ;-)

  5. Wendy, the way you tell a story is so engaging! I went from laughing to tearing up in 2 minutes flat. Thanks for this post about Michelle's new book! I must have been under a ROCK lately not to know that she has a new book coming out! Ugh!!! (Okay, being buried the publisher's edits to my next book may have had a little to do with it.) :) I just love the way Michelle writes and the gut-level realness God gives her to share for the spiritually thirsty. Just downloaded it to my Kindle. Michelle, I can't wait to dig in. Hugs and love to you both!

    1. Yeah, so you felt along with me. So glad to not feel alone with Fake Mother T staring me down. Michelle has been gifted, this is true! You'll love it.
      Hugs back at you!

  6. This is such a well-told anecdote. You had me laughing and crying!! Oh my word, that lady! I would've cried too!!
    It's taken me a long time and forever to learn that we have the power to allow other people to control our actions (and reactions) or to simply... NOT let them do that to us. It's the simply not part that seems to always elude me! :) lol I think remembering that we are indeed Giving Them Grace is the key!


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