Our mission for the afternoon was simple: My three-year-old daughter and I were going to pick up a prescription and buy toys and supplies to fill Operation Christmas Child boxes. I had contemplated—seriously contemplated—buying the gifts for the OCC boxes on a solo mission to avoid the dreaded “Mommy, I want all of those toys” meltdown but ultimately decided that taking my daughter along with me was an important step in showing her how exciting it can be to give to others.
First stop: prescription counter. The line was short and moving quickly, and all was right in my universe. Until I approached the counter. After a few moments of flustered fumbling, the cashier finally confessed to me that the medication we needed to help control my daughter’s asthma was backordered. Indefinitely. On a national level. I felt my blood pressure start to rise as I recalled the recent news reports broadcasting horror stories about children severely sick with respiratory illnesses. I heard my daughter’s pulmonologist reminding me of the importance—no, necessity—of sticking with her asthma preventative routine every. single. day. And I questioned why this information could not have been brought to my attention two days ago, when I called to request the refill in the first place and was told (by a real live human being) it would be ready.
And then in the midst of my ire, it happened. I got that persistent tug on my jacket sleeve that told me my daughter had to use the restroom. “Anna, can you wait?” I snapped at her through tight lips. My business at the pharmacy counter was far from over. “No, Mommy. It’s a’mergency. I really have to go potty!” was the urgent response. I sighed deeply and reluctantly excused myself from the pharmacy counter. As I raced my daughter across the store to the restrooms, I resolved to remain completely indifferent to the gawking bystanders who were undoubtedly wondering if an errant cart-pushing marathon sprinter mistakenly took a wrong turn into the bowels of a big box store.
We ran to the first available stall, and in my haste, I made a grave miscalculation. I hurriedly placed my daughter atop a toilet with one of those dreaded automated flushers. WHOOSH! The toilet flushed even before her backside touched the seat, and screaming, she leaped into my chest with a force that I’m certain would rival that of a boxing kangaroo. She flung her arms around my neck and clung to me for dear life. She is deathly afraid of potties that flush by themselves, and I knew after that mishap that our likelihood of experiencing a tinkling triumph was nil—if not negative nil.
After much coaxing, I was finally able to usher her into the handicapped stall, which was equipped with a non-automated “regular potty.” I was required to perform the obligatory “you try it out first, Mommy” test so that she could witness firsthand the potty’s temperament, and once it was proven to her that this potty was benign, she allowed me to hoist her up. I crouched down beside her so I could look reassuringly into her tear-streaked eyes. As I was down at her level, I couldn’t help but notice how filthy the outside of the toilet was. Then I realized the stench in the stall was rather overwhelming. I felt my already warmed-up blood pressure start to rise again.
Why are people so gross? Why can’t restrooms in family-friendly stores be cleaner? Why can’t I ever get anything accomplished unless I am by myself or it’s after 10:00 P.M. at night? Why did I waste all that time and money getting a college degree just so that I could spend my days wiping little kids’ bottoms? Why is this taking so long? Why…and then suddenly, WHOOSH! WHOOSH! WHOOSH! Like a symphony of terror, all the toilets of the universe revealed their evil plot to conspire against me by flushing unabashedly and simultaneously. And that, my friends, was our curtain call.
My daughter was undone; I was undone; and I had no choice but to leave the store empty-handed. We did not get her medication. We did not get supplies for the Operation Christmas Child boxes. And I most certainly did not get to share with my daughter the message of the importance of giving to others. I think the only message I shared with my daughter that afternoon was that her mommy was feeling a tad bit threadbare. If I was created to be a tapestry of God’s goodness and love, I was in desperate need of an overhaul, because my ends were definitely starting to fray.
What I lost perspective of in that moment is that even on my worst day I am still among the world’s luckiest women.
I have been richly blessed with a family. I have been richly blessed with a family and a house filled with love. I have been richly blessed with a family and a house filled with love, and all of our needs have been provided for. Abundantly. How many people would be delighted to have access to indoor plumbing? How many people would be overjoyed to have enough financial freedom to be able to give to someone in need? How many parents would sacrifice everything they have to gain access to medications that could heal their ailing children? How can I even begin to feel sorry for myself in the midst of the innumerable luxuries that I take for granted every single day?
Being a mom is incomprehensibly hard work, and I am keenly aware how the daily struggles of life—particularly during the frenetic holiday season—can rise like a mountain and overshadow our view of the beautiful sunset of God’s great gifts glowing in the background. We feel overwhelmed. We feel tired. And we feel that the way we spend our days—the battles we fight (I’m looking at you, automated toilets) and the successes we relish (but yay for potty-trained toddlers)—are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But we have been chosen for this work, and as we care for our families and friends with love and integrity, we are making a difference in the world—one potty break at a time. Although I didn’t have the presence of mind to think it at the time (because, let’s face it, I’m just not that awesome), I am so grateful that God allowed our day to spiral off track so that He could rein me back in.
My day didn’t go the way I had planned, but it reminded me that my life is actually going far, far better than I had ever dared to dream.