In Which I Learned Something about Myself

And there is still another layer to the riveting drama in my Winn Dixie post earlier this week. When I sat down to write that post on Monday, I had been really thinking about it and talking to the Lord about it for the better part of a week. The revelation of God’s profound demonstration of love for me in the midst of my brokenness and how he moved heaven and earth to show me that love was very overwhelming for me. While I am prone to exaggeration for comedic effect, I do mean literally that He moved heaven and earth because Popey had just been transferred back to the US after being stationed in Egypt for a while.  In fact, his poor lips were still scarred from the middle eastern sun and he had white lines around his eyes from squinting.  And we met at exactly the right time.

Anyway, as I was processing all of the emotions that welled up over the extravagance of God’s love, I wanted to share that with the man God used so wonderfully. So when he came in from work on Friday evening (now remember, I had been thinking about this A LOT and even shed a few tears) here’s how that conversation went:

Me: “Thanks for chasing me down in the Winn Dixie all those years ago.”

Him: (smile) “You’re welcome.”

Me: (my heart was full and my mind went completely blank and nothing else came out)

I was so frustrated with myself for not being able to say what I was feeling and actually have a conversation about it. And then I couldn’t even say that I was frustrated with myself.  But then we had ice cream and it was all good.  We deal with a lot of things over ice cream.  Which by the way is a tradition that started back in my Winn Dixie days.  Popey would drive home from Fort Bragg just to see me on my 15 minute break at work and we would go to the little frozen yogurt shop around the corner from my store.

Soft ice cream

Fast forward to Saturday morning. One of my daughters shared with me a particularly painful situation she is walking through and how her heart is broken (Just know there is a future post I am developing about how hard it is to watch your kids struggle and that Jesus really is enough for them too). On the inside I had a lump in my throat and a heaviness in my own heart, but when I tried to say something my mind went completely blank, AGAIN. I felt terrible for her. She poured out her heart and I went blank.

But I realized that I actually feel this way often, when my emotions well up somehow words don’t flow from my mouth.

Later on Saturday I apologized to my daughter for not being able to articulate my feelings earlier and she said, “It’s ok Mom. I get it when you write. I cry every time I read something you write, whether it’s a blog post, a text or an email. That’s how you communicate your feelings. You write them.”

Study

And that’s what I learned about myself…I am pretty good at verbally communicating thoughts, ideas, information, even instructions, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t say what I am feeling.

So to everyone in my life who has ever shared something painful, joyful, heavy or crazy and I just stared back at you like I had no idea what you meant, I would like to offer my most sincere apologies. Please know that I heard your heart, I felt your pain, I shared your joy, I was grateful for your gift, but my emotions closed off my throat and I was literally at a loss for words. Next time I will write you a note. 🙂

And if you are asking yourself, “Does she know herself at all?”  The answer is definitely no, but I know the One who does and He’s revealing it to me every day.

Amen.

Thanks for Chasing Me Down in the Winn Dixie

Have I ever told you the story of how I met my husband? For some reason this was on my mind a lot the last several days. As I mulled it over my perspective on the story changed a little bit and it became a bit sweeter to me.

Be warned, this is probably a post written more for me than anyone else, so feel free to abandon ship at any point you have something better to do…like fold laundry, make dinner or watch TV.

When I was 18 years old and just a few months from my high school graduation, I worked at a local Winn Dixie store. And when I say I worked there, well that’s sort of an understatement. I practically lived there because I begged for all the hours I could get. At one point in my retail grocery career, two store managers split my time between their individual stores so that I could work more than 40 hours per week and they wouldn’t have to pay me over time.  I know, I was dumb.

One of the perks to this job was that I had to wear a RIDICULOUS polyester, Carolina blue uniform (complete with elastic waist pants and matching top with two very utilitarian pockets to hold 20 pens at once) that had absolutely no shape. The best part was I had to wear white nursing shoes with my uniform so I looked extra professional.

winn-dixie crew 1986 pleasantfamilyshopping

(The EXACT uniforms store employees wore back then…only we weren’t this happy about it!  Thanks Pleasant Family Shopping)

I was very industrious for $3.65 per hour. I took everything very seriously. When my store manager told me to stay busy and never be caught standing around talking to my friends, well I figured he meant it. And I diligently made sure that when I wasn’t checking out customers as fast as lightening or counting down tills in the office that I picked up every piece of trash in sight, swept the floors, re-stocked unwanted grocery items, and above all else I never looked like I had nothing to do. Otherwise, he might send me home and I wouldn’t get all the hours I needed.

For reasons that are better left revealed in a MUCH longer format (say a book?), I was afraid of losing my job. And just to show you I know how crazy it sounds, let me say it clearly, I WAS AFRAID OF LOSING A JOB THAT PAID $3.65 AN HOUR (and made me wear possibly the worst uniform in history).

So, one Friday night, in walked the man I have now spent almost 27 years of my life with. And he came in specifically to meet me. He was home from Fort Bragg to spend a long Easter weekend with his family. And he had a sister, a sister who worked with me. And he came to Winn Dixie that night to meet me and to ask me out on a date.

He walked up to me at the video counter (we were a cutting edge store – we rented movies before Block Buster came along and we had the first scanners I had ever seen in a store) where I was checking in videos and he started to talk to me.  He was a real, adult, grown up man, and he was talking to me.  And I almost threw up. All I could think was, “Talk without moving your lips and keep moving your arms like you are working and maybe the manager won’t notice.” I kept trying to squeeze myself into the one square foot of space behind the cigarette/video counter that could not be seen from the one-way mirrored glass in the front office where the manager kept a close watch on all of us.

And my future husband kept talking. Sadly, I can’t remember a thing he said. I am sure he asked me about myself. I am sure he told me a lot about himself. But all I heard was the voice in the back of my head screaming , “You’re gonna get fired! And then how are you going to pay for college? And if you don’t go to college, what’s going to happen to you?”

At some point I realized there was a basket of groceries that needed to be put away so I grabbed the basket and took off around the store to put the items back. And Popey (his cleverly disguised nick name – you know how vigilant I am about protecting the innocent) took off after me. That man followed me up and down those aisles, watching me put away groceries, trying to have a conversation with me. The truth is, he didn’t just follow me, he chased me. He would not be ignored. He would not be left behind. He was going to ask me out if it took him all night.  I didn’t realize he jumped out of airplanes for a living, chasing me around a grocery store to ask me out probably didn’t seem all that intimidating.

I wish I could remember what he said. I wish I could say we had some sweet conversation, but all I know after all this time is that at some point in the pursuit he asked and I said yes, and a lot of story has unfolded since that night. We went on that first date. He left the Army a couple of months later. I went off to college a couple of months after that. We dated the whole time I was in college. We’ve had three kids, a home, long term health issues, a business/several jobs/multiple careers between us. We’ve shared a lot of joy and a lot of pain (and sometimes we’ve inflicted it  😦 ), but the point is we’ve done it together.

I’ve always looked back on that story and thought about how precious and sweet he was that night, but I beat myself up for being so broken that I almost missed the opportunity to share my life with him. But what hit me the last few days is that God loved me so much and knew how broken I was that He sent someone into my life who wasn’t going to give up on me, who wasn’t going to run away even when I ignored him, and who was willing to share life with me – the good, the bad and the ugly. He sent me someone willing to chase me down when necessary, just to love me.

God knew how lonely I was. He knew I didn’t know how to fix it. He knew that I didn’t even understand how much trouble I was really in by trying to live life in all my independence and self-sufficiency. God knew me and God sent Popey.

This life is too hard to live and figure out on our own.  Popey, thanks for chasing me down in the Winn Dixie that night (and every day since).  And Father, thanks for loving me through him.