Thursday, September 26, 2013

our new friend, phyllis

her name tag said phyllis.

but i didn't notice that at first. when you're at the supermarket and a woman steps from behind the deli counter and approaches you ... her name tag isn't the first thing you notice.

but phyllis was headed directly for me.

let me back up a minute. just prior to the advance of this deli counter-woman named phyllis, bella was running out ahead of my cart. i hadn't quite cleared the produce aisle and little miss had already turned the corner, camping out in front of a beanie babies display. a display which just happened to be across from the deli counter.

think grocery store layout ... you get it.

anyway, bella was rummaging through the beanie babies at the speed of an obsessed five year old. she was picking out one after another and clutching them closely to her chest.  and before i even reached her she was already begging.

"puuullleeeasseee mama... puuullleeeasssee, mom, can i get one. puuullleeeasssee!"

begging doesn't even begin to explain the full court press my kindergartner was laying on me.

beginning my hunt in the cheese section for the right sized wheel of brie, i barely glanced up, "no bella. no stuffed animals today."

"puuullleeeeaaase mama!"

"i said no bella. we have too many stuffed animals at our house as it is.  you don't need another one honey. now please go put it back."

"but mama ..."

"---no, bella. that's final." 

you know the scene. you've probably witnessed it a a couple hundred times yourself. it happens every day in grocery stores all across america, right? kids whining for candy bars and packs of gum and beanie babies. beanie babies??? what are beanie babies doing in the grocery store anyway???

she stomped back toward the beanie baby display with her stuffed ladybug swinging at her side. her chin at her chest, her arms crossed in dismay, and her shoulders slumped in complete disappointment -- her mama had said no.

that was when i saw phyllis heading my way.

"excuse me," she said approaching, "but would you let me buy her the stuffed animal?"

honestly, i just stared at her. it took a good minute or so to comprehend what she was asking.

was the lunchmeat lady from behind the counter really asking me if she could purchase a stuffed ladybug for my daughter? i felt confused. muddled. unsure.

why was she offering?

"you see," she went on to say, "i have $5 in my pocket and i would really like to buy that  for her. it would bring me joy to get that stuffed animal for your little girl. i like to do this from time to time..." she faltered for a second, "it ... it... blesses me."

i was speechless.

i kind of wanted to say no -- just for the fact that  bella was doing her very best to continue her almighty pout and protest over at that rack of stuffed critters. i shouldn't give in. she didn't deserve this nice lady's offer.

not to mention this sweet woman who worked at the deli didn't need to be spending that $5 in her pocket. i wanted to encourage her to save it for her break. buy herself a coffee or a soda or an ice cream. she didn't need to do this for my little girl with a bedroom full of beanie babies ... my little girl who from the level of her pout clearly hadn't been told "no" enough.

but phyllis looked me right in the eyes and said, "please. would you please allow me? it would bring me joy."

and looking into the eyes of this woman, there was nothing i could say except --- "yes."

" yes, that is very kind of you. yes, you don't have to do this for her, but yes, we accept your gift. it is very sweet. very generous."

i stumbled over my words.

i was overwhelmed with her kindness.

i was awkward in my gratitude.

i did my best to make sure bella knew that this lady that we didn't even really know was doing something exceptionally nice for her. and we hadn't even ordered one slice of lunchmeat!

i'm sure i asked bella to say thank you to miss phyllis no less than 15 times.

i just didn't know how to graciously accept this unexpected, undeserved, unmerited gift.

because sometimes we don't.

we just don't know how to accept something which is freely given.

kind of like with Christ.

He has this amazing gift of grace for us ... eternal life, in fact ...and we dance around awkwardly thinking, "i don't need it ... everything's pretty okay here ... i can purchase it myself ... i don't need any help ... i don't deserve it ... why me? ... nothing is for free ... what's the catch?"

that's kind of how we feel about God's gifts sometimes, isn't it? because grace is exactly that -- unexpected. undeserved and absolutely 100% unmerited.

that's what makes it grace! beautiful catch-me-off-guard-at-the-deli-counter-grace!

"for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  ~ romans 6:23

"for by grace you have been saved through faith. and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."  ~ ephesians 2:8

pretty amazing, huh?

so, i just had to share this story tonight.

nothing better than meeting a new friend at the meat counter ...

nothing better than being reminded of beanie babies ... free gifts ... and grace.

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