I was the little girl who proudly carried a sky blue, (plastic) Star Wars lunch box (it was the 80’s… I LOVED Star Wars and EVERYthing was plastic). Then, somewhere along the way I personalized my precious lunch pail by slapping a HUGE “I LOVE MILK” sticker across the front of it. My declaration of love was so big that only hints of light sabers poked out from under the edges of my sticker. That was me, Star Wars and milk…but mostly milk.
I’m also a strong believer in the power of latte therapy! Lattes have always been my deep, cleansing breath in a cup. When life has felt stressful or too busy, it was nothing that a beautiful foamy, creamy cup of caffeinated bliss couldn’t right. Even on the worst of days, with a latte in hand, a better day is never far away (cheesy, but for me it always felt true). A good hot latte seemed to reduce the deafening noise of life to a soft hum that I could dance to. Lattes have never failed me, until last week with a fateful grocery store run.
I only needed a couple of things from the grocery store. So, I loaded everyone up and off we went. I ended up choosing the most dysfunctional, inhibited, stubborn, directionally challenged cart in the store, and it was down hill from there. We began walking (slowly) while I worked hard to maneuver the cart and herd my flock of kids. I should have immediately traded in that cart for a higher functioning one, but I thought it’d just be quicker to press on, grab my items and check out. I really should have traded the cart...
My "quick" grocery store trip, plus my four kids, reduced this once formerly elegant mom to a lumbering, flapping frazzled mess. I would have loved to have been able to hide myself in a long, hooded medieval style cape. Even if I'd looked like the unibomber, at least my frustration and stress might have been a little disguised and I’d have taken comfort in knowing that no one could have really seen my face clearly. Certainly under a hood, they'd never know that I was that crazed woman with 4 kids from the grocery store.
As we walked together through the store, my kids cut funky paths through the aisles. They'd step in front of me and fellow shoppers. Occasionally they'd jump across an aisle, wanting to show me something and narrowly avoid oncoming cart traffic. They were embarrassingly oblivious to their surroundings. When I'd pause they'd perfectly space themselves out, entirely clogging up the aisle. In defense of my kids and unwitting (Seattle area) aisle blockers: it's really difficult for ANY person (short or tall) to know they need to move out of a fellow shopper’s way if no one says, “Excuse me”.
Ever since moving to the Northwest, I've noticed something interesting...there's an unspoken rule that shoppers aren't supposed to acknowledge one another. That means no eye contact and definitely NO speaking to one another! Northwesterners will work their way down an aisle and then wait and wait and wait (or silently steam), behind fellow shoppers for really large chunks of time, without ever making a sound. They act like they possess super-human powers, allowing them to make their presence known by narrowing their eyes and focusing hard on the back of that aisle-blocker's head…and then voila, the path is clear! I really miss hearing those two little words: “excuse me”.
No shopping trip in my family is ever easy, but this one was more absurd than usual. Rounding up and containing my kids felt like attempting to herd jumpy, flighty chickens. I lurched from one side of the aisles to the other, shooing my kids from the paths of other shoppers. With the way my arms were stretched wide, I probably looked like I was trying to scoop my kids together into a large hug and hold them in place.
To top it all off, my sweet, amazing, 2 year old decided to be less than amazing and pull a bunch of single-serve Mac-n-Cheese bowls from the shelf. When she didn't want to stop her pint-sized reorganizing, I picked up my devastated, screaming, ridged baby and tried to move us all toward the register. By this point I was feeling pretty emotionally fragile, so of course I couldn’t help but notice "the look" from a clearly childless, middle-aged man. It was as if I could hear him thinking, “That’s exactly why I don’t have kids!” Then again, maybe I wasn't seeing judgment at all, but merely a serious case of RBF…I’ll never really know. (For more info on RBF, check out this article. It's a real thing!)
Finally it was over but I felt wrecked. When we got home, I unloaded the kids and the car and fired up my espresso machine. But hours after the last drip of my latte therapy had disappeared I still felt traumatized. I’d mentally relived every nasty moment of my afternoon, over and over, and I sat feeling defeated and drained. Latte therapy had failed me! I was hating myself for how gristly I’d been with my kids and each review of the craziness at the store only darkened my cloud of discouragement. When Adam got home, I passed the parenting baton and took off for the only other thing I thought could right me: the gym.
While I drove, some music played and one string of words leapt out at me: “The glory of God has defeated the night”. Then the word “defeated” replayed over and over in my mind and it hung in the space around me. I wasn't feeling the old painful, sting of the word. I wasn’t being accused, the way I had all afternoon. Instead I saw my terrible day and all those perilous grocery store peaks; crushed and compacted beneath me. And there I was, standing victoriously on top of it all.
That divine moment restored me in a way that not even 100 latte therapy sessions could have. I realized that I'd lost sight of my true, unchangeable spiritual identity. I’d forgotten that even when I feel completely defeated, my identity in Christ says I’m victorious and I’m even more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37). Because of Christ, I can never truly be defeated (regardless of my feelings) because God has defeated and conquered all the things that wish to defeat me (Colossians 2:15). Even on my darkest days, I AM still victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Latte loving or not, some days just require supernatural intervention.