The magic of Target.
Target is where moms can go in the evenings and wander about: aimlessly, thoughtlessly, or excitedly. We can meander. We can glide behind our cart. There aren't interruptions. We can daydream. We can buy the things on our list, those necessities for our families: milk, diapers, and toilet paper. Or we can load the cart with everything we don't need but looks appealing. Or the clearance....oh, the clearance! Or we can buy a few things for us: a chocolate bar, a scented candle, a book, some new eyeliner, a new pair of yoga pants or sunglasses. Or, the occasional mama with a Dave Ramsey angel on her shoulder, may buy nothing.
Target is an experience. An escape. It offers possibility and peace.
But a trip to Target, I realized the other night, is magical for a much more significant reason.
Target is less than five minutes from my home. Yet in that short drive, made in my gray minivan full of car seats, crumbs, and toys, I'm able to completely transform and re-focus.
First, I slide behind the driver's seat and adjust my radio. Or I may turn the radio off for some much-desired silence. Then I back out of the driveway, noticing the empty car seats in my rearview mirror. And then sighing in relief, because I'm missing bedtime hell. Feeling a tad guilty that I've left my husband to put three young children to bed which is nothing less than a miracle if it's accomplished. Then I put it all---the kids, my spouse, along with my writing deadlines and chores---behind.
If it's the least bit warm, I crack the windows.
Then I wait to see what comes to me.
I'm ready, God. I'm listening. I'm present. Fully.
I get very little "God time" these days. Almost every Christian book and blog talks about God time and how to get it in and what it should look like and feel like. It usually goes like this:
- Wake up early. Like before everyone else. Light a candle, pour yourself some coffee or tea, and have your Bible, a pretty journal, and your favorite pen handy. Have a seat on the floral chase you placed in front of your sun-filled bedroom window. YOU ARE READY, SISTER
- Confess all your sins, you sinful sinner. You need to be desperate for Jesus. DESPERATE.
- Call on the Holy Spirit to get you through every uphill battle you face: at work, with your spouse, your children, your mother, your friend, that annoying neighbor.
- Memorize a few Bible verses.
- Learn Biblical history. Geography. Law. Tradition. Characters. Heritage.
- Reflect on the great women of the Bible and how awesome they were. They were JUST like us.
- Write down all your praises and prayer requests. Be sure to reflect on past praises and prayer requests. ISN'T GOD SO AWESOME?
- Pour your heart out to Jesus. Keep tissue handy. You'll probably cry a lot. Now, dab your eyes. It's time to shine!
- Begin your day spiritually prepared and fulfilled. Smile. You are going to have a GREAT day!
I read these things, and I laugh. I don't mean to mock. I'm sure some of these methods and routines work. But they aren't the reality of 99% of moms I know.
A few months ago, I was part of a Bible study. It actually ended up being more of a mom-confession time: our needs, our struggles.
I talked about my frustration with Christian female writers who tell us what we should be doing to have the best spiritual lives EVER. A mom of three boys said something that I replay in my mind often:
Don't you think God knows how crazy life is with young kids? Don't you think He's ok with how we are?
And I thought, could it be true? I mean, you know that saying that God loves us too much to leave us the way we are.
How can He change us, work through us, and give us what we need when I'm not lighting a tulip-scented candle, reflecting on all the fulfilled prayer requests, and starting the morning off bright and early with an all out sob session?
I think the danger is that we are never enough, in anything in life. There are always ways to improve. So when we read what a good Christian mother should be, we fail, every time.
And I wonder, who came up with the standards I explained above? And who in the world thought it was a good idea to perpetuate them? And why do we, everyday Christian moms, believe in them even though we aren't ever going to be able to do them all?
My spiritual life is not going to fit into a box. I refuse to contain myself and God into standards set by others.
(I know, I know. We should mature spiritually. We shouldn't be spiritual babies. (I've been a Christian for 23 years.) Yet we should have faith like a child: open, trusting, accepting. I know the verses. I grew up in church. I hear these verses echoing in my mind. But whose to say that spiritual progress isn't being made. Perhaps progress comes about in simple ways, everyday interactions, and divine intervention where God sprinkles grace and blessing and peace upon us even when we aren't sobbing for it?)
My Jesus-time occurs the most:
---In the heat of moments when my kids are driving me nuts, or ask me a really tough question, or a friend shares with me some scary health news, or I read a story about a missing child: I utter urgent prayers to God.
--Reading my kids a story, usually from The Jesus Storybook Bible. No, it's not a fancy "women's Bible" with a pink leather cover in the latest trendy translation. It's a Bible with colorful pictures. Yes, it's for kids ages 4-8. And believe it or not, quite meaningful and encouraging.
---On the way to and from Target.
I'm rarely anywhere alone. I always have a child with me, uninvited, in the bathroom. Half the nights, my middle child is sharing our bed. I'm being touched at all times: tugging on my pants, pulling up my shirt, tapping my shoulder, hugging my leg.
On the short trip to Target, with my windows cracked open, with my van easing down side roads lit by streetlights, I talk to God. Or I listen to God. Or I just be with God.
I sometimes listen to our local Christian radio station.
Or I drive in silence. Waiting for whatever God will bless me with. An urging. A thought of encouragement or conviction. An idea.
Or I pray for what is heavy on my heart.
Or I just relish in the fact that I am His, and He is mine. (And it dawned on me the other day that despite all of life's ups and downs, I'm built on God, and this has sustained me for as long as I can remember. God is why I'm able to persevere, to have peace when circumstances aren't peaceful.)
After shopping, I load the van, shove my cart into the corral, and plop my tired self into the driver's seat.
And I start the care and drive home, enjoying more quiet time with just me and God.
And I'm refreshed.
Ready for what will come next.