I was tired but triumphant when I pulled into the Whole Foods parking lot. I had persisted and prevailed in my quest and I was feeling pretty proud at that moment. You see, what had started out as a routine errand after work, had without warning morphed into something more time consuming and frustrating than I had at first anticipated. I was trying to find the elusive location of the REI store that I thought was inside a particular mall, but discovered that it was not there at all. Of course I discovered this important fact only after miraculously finding a parking space, (remember its Christmas shopping season) entering the mall and greatly exceeding my ten thousand steps for the day. (do steps roll over to the next day like phone minutes used to roll over to the next month? something to think about)
But I digress. Anyway, weary of walking in circles, I stopped at an information kiosk where it was confirmed the store I sought was not in the mall but at another location. She showed me on a map where it was located, not that far from where we were. I thanked her and made my way back through the mall and out to my car. I was confident I had understood her directions and what I had seen on the map. Piece of cake I told myself. I just needed to find this strip mall nearby. How hard could it be?
When I crossed Allisonville Rd. I knew I had gone too far and would have to turn around and head back the other way. Late afternoon traffic was heavy as expected and left turn lanes are always backed up. Nevertheless, headed back the way I had just come, I kept my eye out for the strip mall, but there was a problem. Everything on both sides of the street was a strip mall, one giant, never ending strip mall as far as the eye could see and beyond. The stores and parking lots all blended together in a maze of what must be paradise for the shopping enthusiast while being nothing short of torture for me. But I was determined. I turned in and out of several segments of the “strip” looking for my store. When I noticed I was right back at the mall where it all started, I knew I had to turn around yet again.
This time I would concentrate on the other side of the street, a sea of stores as far as the eye could see, mirroring the opposite side which I had just checked out. It was slow going but I was determined not to miss it this time, as I assumed I had done on my first pass down this road. The store HAD to be here somewhere, I had seen it on the map. Finally, I pulled into a parking lot just to get out of the traffic for a moment, regroup and make a new plan. (I really just wanted to head home, call it quits, and deal with this another day) It was then a spotted a white truck sitting alone at an angle, further out in the lot. Mall security, I thought, they will be able to help me! As I pulled alongside the truck with my window already down, I saw the letters AT&T on its side. Too late, I was already there. So I proceeded with my question.
This kind stranger did indeed come to my aid. Consulting his tablet, he found the location of the store and proceeded to explain to me how to get there from where we were. (the store was in yet another strip mall, not visible from our current location.) Armed with this new knowledge, I ventured out yet again into the challenging late afternoon traffic, populated with crazed shoppers bent on fulfilling their ‘to do’ lists, just as I was.
My ERRAND had now become a MISSION and I did not want to give up without success. I would not go home empty handed. That would be to fail. After all, my purpose was to obtain gift cards for my children from this, their requested store. And we all know, don’t we dear reader, that when it comes to our kids, there is no mountain too high, no stone we would ever leave unturned. So I continued down this different road, in a direction I hadn’t gone previously. I needed to go over the interstate, through a couple more traffic lights and turn down another road. This road then allowed me to turn onto yet another road which then had strip malls opening up on both sides, stretching as far as the eye could see. Now what? I ventured in one direction with no success, then decided to try the opposite side. And there it was! REI in all its glory! The summit was in sight! Success within my grasp! I could taste victory!
What happened next is of course, anticlimactic. I entered, I purchased, I exited. Feeling the thrill of victory, I headed towards home with just one more errand to do. This was to obtain a gift card from Whole Foods. I had originally planned to start my shopping at Whole Foods because it was close to work and would be the easier of the errands. But I chose instead to start with the one furthest away and work my way back toward home, as I knew I would get progressively tireder and hungrier and should save the easiest for last.
So we have now arrived at the beginning of this post, with me in the Whole Foods parking lot. It smelled so good as I entered the store and I was hungry, but determined not to shop, just get the needed gift card and go. I went straight to the register, where the gift cards were displayed. My eye fell first on a large sized REI gift card, there in the display. In stunned silence my brain tried to assimilate what I was seeing. How could this be? Had the past two hours been unnecessary? (apparently so, because if I had started here as I had originally planned, I would have been finished with one stop. the only thought I could console myself with at that moment was that the gift cards I had purchased at the actual store were ‘cuter’ than the generic one here) There were only eight cards in the display, four of them Whole Foods cards. I couldn’t tell you what the other three were, I saw only the REI card. This is the irony I was referring to.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Both seemed appropriate at the moment. Driving home, I came to the conclusion that I had no regrets. We spare no expense for our children. The regret would be if we didn’t. I thought of how my Heavenly Father has spared no expense for me, for each and everyone of us actually. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
Well, this is turning into a Christmas post, but how could it not? Jesus is God’s gift to our broken and hurting world. Given at just the right time, God spared no expense in sending His Son to live among us, then die in our place, paying the penalty for our sins that we would never be able to pay. What an extravagant gift, this gift of forgiveness and eternal life with our Creator. That’s what Christmas is; God so loved — that He gave. God so loved the world (us) that He gave His only Son (Jesus), so that whoever believes in Him, will not die but have life everlasting.
That’s why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we’re remembering and celebrating God’s gift to us of His Son. The Chinese character for Christmas means literally, ‘birthday of the Most High God’. And that’s what Christmas is. Merry Christmas everyone.
sincerely, Grace Day